Saturday, July 18, 2020

The TYPIK Senestre

From UNAM -
Courtesy of UNAM
Yes, Besançon is the home of French watchmaking. And yes, when we think of watchmaking we tend to think of mechanical (hand winding) or self-winding (automatic) movements at a minimum. And I guess that is somewhat understandable. But that is, frankly, a bit short-sighted. Because there are some truly fun (and accurate), and perhaps most important? Affordable quartz watches out there, and if you ever find yourself in Besançon, I urge you to make your way to Philippe Lebru's UTINAM boutique where you can avail yourself of the UNAM collection.

The one pictured here is the TYPIK Senestre.
Courtesy of UNAM
You will notice that the dial seems backwards, and that is not a mistake on your part, or the designers at UNAM. It is a counter-watch, in other words, it literally runs backwards.

Now in truth, this is maybe not going to be everyone's jam, but I am a bit contrary, and I dig it!
Courtesy of UNAM

And the price? Very agreeable at 215,00 €
It is also available with a black dial -
Courtesy of UNAM
The case is of stainless steel and measures 35 mm in diameter, powered by a Ronda quartz movement. Straps can be had in several different colors. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Marine Capitaine Limited Edition 5

From Olivier Jonquet -
Courtesy of Olivier Jonquet
Based in France and offering something a bit out of the ordinary.  This is the Marine Capitaine Limited Edition 5.
Courtesy of Olivier Jonquet
Here are the pertinents -

Limited edition of 200 pieces
Case : Cushion shape / Stainless steel polished 316 L / Dimensions : 43.5 x 43.5 mm / Special strap attachment (strap width 24 mm) / Transparent case back
Crown : Bespoke stainless steel 316 L
Glass : Domed sapphire Crystal (dial side) / Flat sapphire crystal (case back side)
Water resistance : 3 ATM
Movement : ETA 6498-1 top (manual winding) / Power reserve around 46 hours
Dial : White enameled with Black Arabic numbers
Hands : Rose Gold-plated Stainless steel hands
Strap : Black Calf Leather / Hypo allergenic. Hand made
Stainless steel OJ buckle

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Wrapping up Seven Days with the 1954 Himalaya Automatic

This post originally aired in Tempus Fugit back in 2015.  

So seven days have come and gone, and it is time for the Lip 1954 Himalaya Automatic to pack its bag for the return flight to Besançon.
Courtesy of Lip
I would have to start out by saying that this is the first French watch (to my knowledge) that I have ever worn for any extended period of time.
Per the folks at Lip, although the movement is from the good folks at Miyota (Citizen) this little horological wrist-bound bijoux was assembled just west of Switzerland in Besançon, France.  

Lip is a brand that many of you might be aware of,  but some of you "New Jacks" out there might have missed.  Lip is to France what Seiko (and Citizen if we're being fair) is to Japan.  With customers like General de Gaulle, well let's just say you've ingrained yourself in the French psyche.

The watch that Lip sent for review is a reinterpretation of one of their "Historical" collections - The 1954 Himalaya Automatic.  As the name suggests, the original design dates back to 1954.

The original pr material said:
"Nine out of ten of the best alpinists have chosen the Himalaya watch for its incredible resistance to elements and impacts". 

Shamelessly borrowed from the "info web"
Noted climbers Maurice Herzog wore one for his ascent of Annapurna I.  And for those of us who traverse the globe on two wheels, fortified by red wine and sausage sandwiches it bears note that per Lip, the Himalaya was also a prize given to the daily stage winners in Le Tour de France.  Who knows, perhaps "Monsieur Chrono" (the son of a builder from Normandy also known as Jacques Anquetil) picked one up back in the day for his July exploits ; )
Shamelessly borrowed from Wikipedia
But that was then, this is now.  Lip is still offering watches at wonderfully friendly price points.  But the question for many of us who write about this stuff was, essentially, is this just a mass produced throw-away trip down memory lane, or are these real watches?
Well, if the 1954 Himalaya Automatic is anything to go by, Lip is making some REALLY COOL watches!  Although staying true to the original design, the new Himalaya features a "heart beat" dial, and I suspect is a wee bit larger than the original. 
The case is 40 mm in diameter, and is constructed of stainless steel.  It is warranted to 50 meters of water resistance.  The finish is smooth and (very) pleasant to the touch.  The lugs are certainly wonderful visually, but they are EXTREMELY well finished.  Watches at this price point are often stamped by a mass press.  And they look and feel that way.  The Himalaya has plenty of straight lines, but they are all smooth the the touch.

The watch fits perfectly, with the lugs just covering the two wrist bones.  And the more I think about it - 40 mm is really as big you need (or should want) to go.

The movement is the Miyota 82S5 and features a nice engraving noting where the watch was assembled.  But what I (and I think any true watch geek) appreciate is that in their marketing material Lip does not try to shine us on by "re-dubbing" the movement as a Lip reference like so many other brands do.  They proudly, and rightly inform the customer of what they are using, so the customer can know exactly what they are getting.  Pretty crazy idea in the world of smoke and mirrors polluting  the watch business these days - I like it!
The 1954 Himalaya Automatic was easy to set and could be hand-wound from a dead stop. The crown was tactile and the winding action was incredibly smooth.
The time keeping was very, very good with a maximum of 18 seconds (slow) deviation over the seven days. The power reserve was strong, and I suspect over a longer period as the watch synced with my movements, it would have been even more accurate.
Lip paid close attention to the points that many other brands view as " necessary" but not necessarily important.  Lip chose a butterfly clasp for the deployment.  Over time I have come to really NOT LIKE the "fold-over" deployment as it tends to rub one side of the wrist unless your wrist is that "magic" size allowing a perfect fit. 

The leather was soft and comfortable right away, not needing any "break in" period.  The strap is calf skin with a printed pattern.  

And like the Stowa Back to Bauhaus the Lip was a real traffic stopper on the street.  I was stopped fairly frequently and asked about it, about Lip - "is that really a watch company's name?", what I thought about it, where to buy one.  That is a good sign that a watch company is on a good path.

Lastly, let's think about one of the key factors driving new watch purchases these days - bang for the buck.  For better or worse, the potential watch customer is armed with a lot of information - some good hand some bad to be sure.  More and more there is a draw towards brands with real history, a real story, and REAL quality.  When these attributes can be found at a very reasonable price point, that is a watch that people should - and will be attracted to.  I would buy this watch and wear it proudly.  But then again, that is one man's opinion ; )

For those of you obsessed with the numbers, here they are some soft ones -

Date Fred Lip 1954

Watch reference 671251

Movement Miyota 82S5

Case Back:
Display  (see the movement action)
Stainless steel case 40 mm / Silver dial / Mineral crystal

Waterproof : 50 meters

Movement Miyota 82S5

2 years warranty

Made in France

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The W.W.W.

Courtesy of SERICA
If I understand everything correctly, SERICA is based in France (Paris), but the watches are assembled in Switzerland.  Although currently sold out, I believe that SERICA will be producing more pieces.  They have a fun configurator on their website which allows you to choose between an ivory (above) or black dial (below) and hand style Alpha (above) or Broad Arrow (below) -
Courtesy of SERICA
Priced at 580,00
Here are the pertinents, straight from the source -

Hours, minutes, seconds and hacking mechanism
Stainless Steel 316L
37.7mm (without the crown), 46.5mm lug to lug
Lug Width: 
Case thickness: 
10.85mm (domed hardened mineral crystal included)
Screw-in crown
Case Back: 
Screw-in stainless steel case back
Lacquered, Black or White with painted numerals
Alpha or Broad Arrow (hours) and Dauphine (minutes)
ETA 2801-2 manual-winding mechanical movement
Power Reserve: 
Approximately 42hrs
100m / 330ft
Smooth calfskin US Military type leather strap (Made in France) & Nylon NATO G10
Country of manufacture: 

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Quadripod

From Utinam -
Courtesy of Utinam
Nearly four years to the day I first visited Besançon, I was back again.  At that time, Utinam was just about to open their boutique and they had a handful of watches along with pieces from Dodane (I believe) Bell & Ross and some of their magnificent clocks.  At the time, I picked up a 24 hour single hand watch that I quite like and still wear.  Had they had this on offer at the time, I probably would have pulled my credit card and made my purchase.

Like many brands in both France and Germany, Utinam has opted for a Japanese movement.  The shape is beguiling, and the blue dial is very pleasing.  But perhaps my favorite aspect?  The hands!  They are just different enough to engage and fascinate.

Courtesy of Utinam
Here are the pertinents -
(Keep in mind, this is Google Translated from French).

Stainless steel form piece, design in 2 parts connected by 4 screws slipped in visible sleeves. Transparent background allowing reading of the oscillating mass. A version exists in titanium nitride Pink Gold. Height: 43mm, Width: 38mm 

Domed sapphire above and below for oscillating weight reading. Particularity of the “ears” at 9:00 and 3:00. 

11½ Japanese mechanical-automatic, 21 jewels, frequency 21,600 vibrations per hour, power reserve: 40 hours. Date at 3 o'clock. 

Enamelled in cartridges; Blue, Ivory, Aventurine. 
Luminescent Hour and Minute, central second counterweight by La Practice à Morteau. 

Engraving of the 2-column eagle, emblem of Besançon. 

Lug Width: 24 mm, barenia calf leather, saddle stitching hand-wrapped by the Comptoir des Selliers in Besançon, stainless steel buckle.
Numbered limited series 
Specific engraving on request.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Irrational Desire

Meets Pequignet -
Courtesy of Pequignet
This is the Rue Royale Reference 9010433 FJ.

While not based in Besançon, Pequignet is close by in Morteau (I believe) which you would pass through on your way to Besançon from Le Locle (should you be in the neighborhood).

Pequignet is at once a known quantity and yet and still a mystery to a lot of watch folks out there. For many of us we think Pequignet de facto means moon phases, power reserve indicators and big dates.  Very formal, very uniform. And that's okay. Pequignet has established a fairly defined design language insofar as the layout of the watch dial and functions.  

But for those of us with a wild color itch to scratch, this little wrist bijoux is the horological equivalent of a colloidal oatmeal bath, followed by a generous application of Benadryl ointment and loose fitting t-shirt.  IT IS AMAZING!  And yes, it soothes that manic itch that some of us have for a wonderfully complicated watch with a bit of color, fun and quirkiness.  

Yes gentle reader, I WANT THIS WATCH!

Here are the pertinents -

Calibre Royal movement
88-hours power reserve
Small second
Anti-reflective sapphire crystal and case-back
Large red accurate moonphase at 6.00

316L Stainless steel case

White dial, Luminova hands
White small second counter and power reserve counter

White alligator strap with blue stitching
Folding buckle with clasp

Limited edition

The Malouine

Although this one is not from Besançon, it does offer a nice bit of French watch history.  This is a "newish" dive watch from Le Forban Sécurité Mer -
Courtesy of Le Forban Sécurité Mer
If you're not familiar with Le Forban Sécurité Mer, I think you can be forgiven.  But that's the appeal of this new time machine.  That, and the fact that it's not 100% new, and yet it is.  Chew on that for a minute if you're still digesting the Tudor re-heat from one of the other big sites.

Back in 69, Le Forban Sécurité Mer made watches for the French navy and PATMAR (the maritime patrol) -

Le Forban Sécurité Mer
Here are the pertinents, straight from the source -

• Case diameter : 38.4 mm (39 mm with the bezel)
• Length : 45 mm lug to lug
• Case thickness : 12.75 mm
• Case in 316L steel
• Unidirectional aluminium bezel (120 clicks)
• Domed sapphire crystal
• Screw-down crown
• 100% silicone Tropic strap (lug width : 20 mm)
• Miyota 8215 mechanical movement

And the price is attractive - 

Without VAT

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Seven Day Review of the Sartory Billard SB02

Wrapping up Seven Days with the Sartory Billard SBO2
Time, tide and well, reviews wait for no blogger, so it is time to wrap this one up.
For the past week I have been wearing, and truly enjoying the Sartory Billard SB02 - Silver Dial version.  The review piece came with Sartory Billard's “Côte d’Azur” blue acetate bezel installed.  I realize as I write this that many of you may not be exactly familiar with Sartory Billard, and in fairness I was not either until I met one of the owners at BaselWorld back in March -

Definitely one of the cooler marketing pieces I saw ; )

Sartory Billard is the creation of Ludovic Sartory & Armand Billard.  Based in France, the constituent components of the SB02 are brought together and assembled in the Franche-Comté, a region that I visited back in November 2015 and home to many historical French watch making legends.  

The SB02 is Sartory Billard's second creation.  Now on the surface the watch is interesting owing to its design which is not the typical round field / diver style that we seem to be getting swamped with lately.  

Courtesy of Sartory Billard
The case is not quite tonneau, and not quite round.  You might also be able to notice from the above image that the inner stainless steel bezel is somewhat reminiscent of an ellipse.  Not quite round.  You will also notice that the stainless inner bezel pitches upwards somewhat, providing a really cool look and feel with real depth.

The case is made of stainless steel and measures 39 mm in diameter, and 12 mm thick.  And unlike so many brands (both micro and macro) the guys at Sartory Billard opted for a solid case back, which I truly appreciate. 

The fit and feel of the watch quite good.  It is definitely of the Goldilocks school of watch sizes - not too big, not too small, but just right.
Now here's the clever part - actually, just one of the clever parts!  You will notice if you look at the watch dial, you will note that the inner portion is actually translucent.  And you can see the full reveal of the date at 3 o'clock.  I have to be honest, I really dig the effect.  My only suggestion would be to have an outline around the date window to make it stand out just a little bit more.  But this is a minor point, and more down to my aging eyes than any true design issue.
Apologies for the shaky camera hand, but as you can see, the lume is good ; )

Under the hood, the movement is the Miyota 8215 self-winding (automatic) movement.   For those of you so inclined, here is a link to the pertinents, courtesy of Miyota  - 

Miyota 8215

The time keeping was first rate, no major deviations (fast or slow) to mention.  And I have to say something - THANK YOU Sartory Billard for picking a movement that can be serviced pretty much ANYWHERE!  More importantly, it's worth noting how many brands - even the big dogs - are starting to use Miyota instead of ETA or Sellita.  Hours, minutes, seconds and the aforementioned date.  All functioned perfectly.

The little things that you don't find on most micro-brands are here -

A signed crown.  The crown itself was very tactile and precise.  Setting the time was smooth and easy.

A signed buckle.  Smooth and appropriately sturdy for the watch and strap. 
And a signed strap.  But there is more to this.  Because a big part of the Sartory Billard design is to offer the watch owner the opportunity to have ONE watch that can have several different looks without the use of tools and a professional watch customizer.
Sartory Billard use quick change straps that do not require a special spring bar tool or a pocket knife.  I started the review wearing this combination -
The strap is the grey version (grey sued top, leather underneath).  The strap width is 18 mm at the connection point but you will notice that the strap widens out to fit flush underneath the lugs.  It is a great looking combination, and I got plenty of questions about it.
You will also notice the four screw heads at the corners of the outer bezel.  This is far more than an aesthetic touch.  Because every SB02 ships with a tool to remove the screws - 

allowing the customer the opportunity to purchase additional outer bezels

And suffice it to say, if yours truly can easily get this thing off 

And get the other bezel on...
 with minimal fuss and no cursing?  Then ANYONE can!

 From a sunny weekend look...

To the perfect watch to wear to the office.  One important thing to bear in mind when removing and changing bezels - the bezel does NOT require excessive force or torque to secure.  When the screw stops turning with normal force?  You've gone far enough ; )

And I think, if I am honest, Sartory Billard has come up with something that several other brands have tried, but (in truth) failed to deliver on.  A modular watch that can easily be changed and modified by the customer with one tool.  How many watch brands give this much consideration to a customer?  Every watch guy and gal wants to have options.  We speak all too often about our collections.  So often, that I think it is clear that many of us have lost touch with the idea of that one special watch.  The one that we treasure and look forward to wearing every day.  And how many brands are thinking about that customer that perhaps either has limited funds, or is truly conscientious about not spending their kid's college funds in the pursuit of a new watch?  This is an amazing idea, thoughtfully designed, well manufactured and very well-priced at 542 Euros.

Want an extra one of the "standard" bezels so you can, in effect, double your watch?  You have five to choose from -

Courtesy of Sartory Billard

Courtesy of Sartory Billard

Courtesy of Sartory Billard

Courtesy of Sartory Billard

and it will set you back 25 Euros.  Want one of the really nice engraved limited edition ones?
Courtesy of Sartory Billard

Courtesy of Sartory Billard
These are hand engraved, and limited.  And in fairness they are more expensive at 125 Euros each.

Three different colors of leather straps are available and again, very affordably priced at 25 Euros.

All too often I am confounded by a certain well-known watch media outlet that drones on and on about the "value proposition" when speaking about watches that typically cost more than $1,500.  No offense to these folks, but I find that concept a tough one to swallow.  Mechanical watches, by their very nature, should certainly cost something.  But when I think about a watch with real value in terms of its pricing, I have a hard time equating the word value with something that represents a full pre-tax pay check for many people.  A good watch that you enjoy wearing should not be such a financial hit that you might be choosing between taking your family on a vacation or buying yourself the watch.  And that is why I am so enthusiastic about the Sartory Billard SB02.

Is this for everyone?  Probably not.  The case us unusual, and some people are not necessarily ready to break away from herd mentality and try something new without a big group's name on it.  But for the right person (and having worn it this past week, I can say that I am one of them), the Sartory Billard SB02 offers a great watch with potentially limitless possibilities.

Here are the pertinents regarding the watch as reviewed:

Sartory Billard SB02 silver dial & 

“Côte d’Azur” blue acetate bezel

ref. SB02.D.ST.04
Stainless steel 316 L mirror polished and brushed on the sides.
“Côte d’Azur” blue acetate bezel.  39 mm in diameter, 12 mm thick.
Case back:
Stainless steel, screw down, engraved
Water resistant: 
Sapphire, anti-reflective treatment with blue shade
Automatic Movement Miyota 8215
Hour and minute are rhodium with facets and applied Luminova. Rhodium second hand.
Sunray brushed and indexes applied with Luminova.
Stainless steel with logo
Suede and genuine leather 

2 years warranty