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Fifty Fathoms Anniversary Act II: the Tech Gombessa

Although there are still some who debate the point, much evidence suggests that the first watch to check the requisite boxes for scuba diving (rotating bezel, luminous material, automatic winding and, obviously, significant water resistance) was the Fifty Fathoms introduced by Blancpain in 1953. This year marks the 70th anniversary for the watch and we’ve already seen “Act I” of a commemorative sequence of watches. In early February, a limited series of 210 watches with special dial marks (reading “70th Anniversary” and the series number of the watch) was introduced, 42mm in size. Panelists at the Blancpain preview event earlier this week. Earlier this week, I joined a number of guests at the Blancpain boutique in Manhattan for a preview of the Fifty Fathoms “Act II.” The event was truly global, with participants “tuning in” to a live stream featuring five hosts. Marc Hayek (Blancpain CEO and President) and Marc Junod (VP and Director of Sales) broadcast from Switzerland while Jas
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Lovell Hunter: American Independent Artisanal Watchmaker

Confession: I struggle with whether I sometimes take this whole watch thing too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is completely healthy to approach watch collecting as an enjoyable leisure activity. Lightheartedness about horology, from a certain perspective, just makes sense. Part of the watch collecting “canon” is that watches are not necessary for keeping track of time. Collectors are also drawn to humor. I laugh at meme accounts on social media and even try my hand at making a meme now and then. When it comes to sustaining an industry, casual clients are just as vital as hardcore “savants.” But part of me starts getting a little uncomfortable when I hear people referring to watches as a “hobby” or as “something nobody needs.” I did not dwell on this discomfort until I had a conversation with an extraordinarily accomplished American watchmaker named Lovell Hunter. We spent a bit of time discussing Lovell’s education and experience as a watchmaker, a topic I’ll return to in

Highlights from the Kari Voutilainen HSNY Lecture

This week, it was my distinct pleasure to attend a lecture delivered by legendary watchmaker Kari Voutilainen at the Horological Society of New York. Kari Voutilainen, center facing, lecturing at the Horological Society of New York on February 13, 2023. I was on the fence about whether I would attend, but I still have regrets about missing Fran├žois-Paul Journe's lecture a few summers ago. If there is a pantheon of present-day traditional, independent, artisanal watchmakers, both Journe and Voutilainen are almost definitely members. Moreover, I've been priviledged to see Voutilainen's work "in the metal" more often than almost any other living master independent watchmaker. So, after lecturing four hours in the morning, I made the trip to Manhattan. I wasn't going to regret missing this one. The Zenith X Voutalainen X Phillips watch. Dial side (top) caseback (bottom). The room was packed. Earlier in the day, an email request went out: 60 people were o

Scabby the Rat Visits His AD

An inflatable rat in front of a Rolex property in New York City, source: Google Maps. While following up on a recent Instagram post, I spent some time reviewing properties owned by Rolex in the New York City metropolitan area. One property, in particular, caught my interest because it seemed to be "off the beaten track." In order to learn more about it, I used street view in Google Maps to access some pictures of the building. As I virtually strolled down the middle of the street, I approached the building's main entrance. Surprise doesn't even begin to describe my reaction when I saw an inflatible rat positioned on the sidewalk facing the door. This thing was big, maybe 12 feet tall. A carnival-esque rodent was the last thing I expected to see near the entrance to a Rolex building. There were three people standing nearby, one wearing something like a construction hat. Having seen a number of labor-related demonstrations in the recent past, my gut told me th

When Is an Ellipse Not an Ellipse?

A picture I took of a 1992 Patek Philippe catalogue Let's get the potentially controversial part of this out of the way: Ellipse is a misnomer when it comes to the Patek Philippe references 3788, 3930 and related versions. More specifically, the watch case in these designs is not rendered in the geometrical version of an ellipse that is frequently taught in high school. I'm honestly a little embarrassed to have only recently come to this conclusion, but geometry was never my strong suit. I won't take all the blame. In most discussions of the Ellipse (the watch), inevitably the "golden ratio" comes up. I think I was distracted by that, because the golden ratio is a pretty interesting topic. Nevertheless, I'd like to set the record straight, or at least straighter, with this post. An ellipse is basically an oblong shape. The Ellipse in Washington, DC, a grass area in President's Park. Compared to a canonical ellipse, the Patek Ellipse has sides t

Mystery Solved: Golay, Longines and NASA

Just before the US Thanksgiving holiday, I received a direct message on Instagram from the account @secondhand.secondhands. Al Worden's official NASA portrait from 1971. He's wearing the watch in question on his left wrist. They were looking for help identifying a watch on the wrist of an astronaut in a photo from 1971. The astronaut in question is Al Worden, pictured here. Worden was the command module pilot for Apollo 15. He orbited the moon 74 times during that mission. To this day, he travelled farther from Earth than any other person. Worden was a 1955 West Point graduate but he commissioned in the US Air Force (the Air Force Academy was not yet commissioning graduates so USMA and USNA graduates were able to commission in the Air Force). Before NASA, Worden flew the F-86D Sabre and the F-102 Delta Dagger. He then earned a Master's degree in aerospace and instrumentation engineering just before enrolling in a test pilot school in the UK. I've included a scree

Lemonade from Lemons: Rolex Certified Preowned

News broke today that Rolex has entered the pre-owned watch market. The brand even released a press statement, which scarcely happens (aside from the standard announcement of a new reference, ambassador or similar). A screenshot from the Rolex press release regarding the certified preowned program. This post is not affiliated with or endorsed by Rolex, you can find the official web page at www.rolex.com. I'm still digesting this news, but I have a few thoughts about how this will all play out and how the preowned space will evolve in response. Side note: before we get into this I want to welcome all the new subscribers who joined, maybe following my "Watch of the Week" article on Hodinkee . Thank you for trusting me enought to read what I write. I take that trust seriously and it means a lot to me that you're sharing some of your valuable attention. Ok, back to the other topic: Rolex and preowned. Let's begin with a major caveat. Daily average seismi