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A New Horological Moonshot

The story of watches and moon exploration is arguably more well-trodden than the surface of the moon itself. A view of the moon from the IM-1 lunar lander. Photo credit Intuitive Machines. The Omega Speedmaster is the incumbent "moonwatch," a title earned after U. S. astronaut Wally Schirra wore his personal Speedy on Earth orbit in 1962. Seven years later, Speedmaster was there when humans first landed on the moon. What's interesting is that this legacy of Omega on the moon emerged through serendipity. There was no grand marketing plan or product placement strategy or KPI which choreographed the arrival of the Speedmaster on Schirra's wrist. Instead, Omega learned that the Speedmaster had been adopted by NASA astronauts in 1965 when they saw a news photo of Ed White wearing one during a spacewalk. Eventually, Omega's role in spaceflight became more intentional and formal. An Omega Speedmaster Project Alaska III. I took this photo during a Phillips auc
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Fining the Crown

News recently broke that watch brand Rolex was on the receiving end of a €91 million fine levied by French authorities. A view of Rolex's offices in France. Source: Google Maps. Generally, the headlines ascribed this fine to Rolex's alleged practice of prohibiting online sales of its watches. However, I've looked closely at the situation and I don't think those headlines are completely accurate (although they're probably what French authorities would want you to believe). I came to this conclusion after reading a Google translation of a 134 page report issued by the French Competition Authority on December 19, 2023. Generally speaking, such documents do not make for engaging reading. However, for those who know how successful Rolex has been at maintaining a comparatively high level of corporate secrecy, the French report provides a compelling and rare insight into some specific aspects of the brand's business. It is these insights which lead me to conclu

Breaking: Audemars Piguet Announces New US Service Center

Raleigh Iron Works rendering. Photo credit Jamestown LP. Luxury watch maker Audemars Piguet has announced a new North American service center in Raleigh, North Carolina. The brand plans to spend $22 million on the new facility and it will create 105 new jobs in the state's capital. The service center will be located in Raleigh Iron Works, a new mixed-use development in downtown Raleigh. Watchmakers will be able to enjoy a variety of neighboring businesses, including a brewery, restaurants and a gym. There is also a slide from the top of a staircase. Further afield, Raleigh is part of the "research triangle" region consisting of three world-renowed universities: North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Wake County Economic Development offered a quote from outgoing Audemars Piguet CEO Fran├žois-Henry Bennahmias regarding the new service center: "'When our employees visited Raleigh and the Triang

Collabs as Moonshots: Bridging a Century-Long Divide

This week, Audemars Piguet released the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked limited edition (reference 26585CM.OO.D301VE.01) in collaboration with Cactus Jack, a music label founded by artist Travis Scott. The Cactus Jack "takeover" of Audemars Piguet's NYC Boutique. It was in this space that the most recent collaboration was released. The timepiece is priced at $201,000 with a 41mm case in brown ceramic. There are various bold design elements at play in this timepiece. For example, the "stitchmarks" on the moonphase complication are an embellishment that evokes the Cactus Jack "Smiley Face" emblem (they're also reminiscent of the animated character Jack Skellington in Tim Burton's movie A Nightmare Before Christmas ). The dial of the AP X Cactus Jack collaboration, note the "smiley face" moonphase and the handwritten style of dial typography. An additional distinguishing design element is the dial's typography. It h

November Surprise: Put Options Arrive at Christie's Watches

Over the past two days I've heard rumblings of a somewhat unprecedented event when it comes to watch auctions. A screengrab Instagram stories and a WatchPro forum discussion revealed that a Christies auction in Geneva started an hour late. The auction in question involved timepieces from a single owner: consignor Mohammed Zaman. When bidding began, the reserve price for watch lots was reset at a higher level, spreading confusion among participants. Hodinkee's Tony Traina has a pretty good discussion of the controversy which includes official statements from Christie's. (Note to readers: this post is a little light on imagery because the material below deals with some fundamental finance issues). I'd like to translate the "Christie's surprise" from the language of the auction world to the language of finance. Yes, you may now point back to my prior post about how watches are too often treated like financial instruments when they are not. But in thi

Rolex in Court Part Deux: There's Audio

There comes a moment in the servicing of a watch that is probably easy to miss among the hundreds of steps required to remove a movement from a case, inspect the parts, repair anything amiss, lubricate all the pieces, and put the whole thing together again. A watch that Rolex's investigator bought at Beckertime for approximately $4,500. The lawsuit refers to this as "Counterfeit Watch One." That moment is when a watchmaker takes the dial and reattaches it to the movement. There is nothing particularly unique when it comes to the tools required or the tasks involved in this step. Instead, what is unique about this moment is that the watchmaker holds in their hand a mark that is not the property of the watchmaker and it is not exactly the property of the watch's owner. In the case of Vacheron Constantin, that mark is a Maltese Cross. For Audemars Piguet, it is the brand's initials. When it comes to Rolex, the mark is a widely recognized crown. If the reassembly

Counterfeit Prevention in the Watch Industry

When Ben Madison chose Big Daddy Watches as the name of his business, he unknowingly described the conditions under which preowned watch dealers operate (Ben Madison is a fictional name to protect the identify of someone who is presumed innocent). An exhibit from one of the lawsuits showing trademark-infringing items which accompanied a counterfeit watch sale. Two recent lawsuits make it very clear: there is a Big Daddy, named Rolex, that stealthily watches independent watch dealers. Until I read the lawsuits, one filed against Madison and another filed against Dan Jenkins (also a fictional name), I had no idea how much effort Rolex expends when it comes to fighting fakes in the preowned market. So, I thought I would share what I learned. The Madison and Jenkins lawsuits show that there are at least two fronts along which Rolex fights counterfeits. In many ways, Rolex employs similar tactics regardless of the nature of the counterfeit. But there are also important government alli