Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet

Some 125 years ago, in the beautiful Vallee de Joux of Switzerland, Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet, drawn to one another by a common passion for the complex intricacies of watchmaking, started their own workshop. They hand-made watches in the best Swiss tradition producing the first automatic Tourbillon. But most worthy of note is their Grande Complication, a chronograph with perpetual calendar, minute, quarterly and hourly chimes and moon phase. With 416 delicate parts, each Grande Complication takes eight to 12 months to complete.

The Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar automatic wristwatch is mechanically programmed to account for leap years until the year 2100. Like Blancpain, Audemars Piguet also incorporates the Tourbillon movement in the heart of its extra-thin watches. In the creation of the ethereal skeleton watches, Audemars Piguet tests the complexities of precision watchmaking to the hilt.

As watchmakers, the firm is also touched by the sheer poetry of jewel ornamentation. Audemars Piguet watches are stunning examples of the fine balance between technology and gemology. Diamonds, sapphires and rubies are worked into their Baroque models of garnet crystal and bezel set with diamonds on 18k gold. The Riviera "Dome" watch is set with 391 diamonds and 77 rubies, while the dial is set with 72 diamonds.

Even men's watches are not relegated to the masculine mode of severe design, albeit in gold. The Reverie Bamboo for men is a gem of watch with handcrafted case integrated into a bracelet of woven gold stems, burnished with diamond paste and set with 457 diamonds with the dial of 296 diamonds.

In 1970, Audemar Piguet was commissioned to create a luxury sports watch of no equal. Its brief was to turn steel into precious metal. The result after months of painstaking research was the Royal Oak, a Perpetual Calendar in platinum, ultra-thin skeleton movement and mechanically programmed to indicate the day, date, month, chronometric time and moon phases. It astonished the world with its breaktaking originality, function and beauty. It also comes in a luxury yellow gold model set with 662 diamonds.

Monday, 22 October 2007

The Bvlgari Story

The Bvlgari family descends from ancient Greek silversmiths. FOunder of the family business, Sotirio Bvlgari was born in 1858 in the small village of Epirus, Kalarites in Greece. He began by making silver objects thus renewing the ancient local art of engraving. He emigrated to Italy at the age of 21, settling in Rome where in 1884 he opened the first Bvlgari shop in Via Sistina. By 1905, he had moved upmarket to the famous Via Condoti.

His two sons, Constantino and Giorgio were privy to the family secret of silver craftsmanship but they became interested in gemstones. Giorgio spent much time in France searching and perfecting a Bvlgari style in gold and silver. COnstantino assembled his knowledge and research to produce the book Argentieri, Orafi e Gemmari d'Italia, which has become the most authoritative work on Italian gold and silver-smithing.

By the end of World War II, the Bvlgari name became more prominent as a jeweller with a unique style. By 1960, Bvlgari had shops in New York, Geneva and Monte Carlo. By 1980, the Bvlgari style was available - at a price - in London, Milan, St. Moritz, Munich, Hong Kong, Singapore, Osaka and Tokyo.

Just what is the Bvlgari style?

Permeating the entire production line of watches, pens, lighters and bibelots are unmistakable Bvlgari hallmarks:

The tubogas, a technique of workmanship used in the 1800s and introduced by Bvlgari into jewellery making. Gold or steel are bent and wound like a spring to hug the wrist or neck.

The parenthesis theme, consisting of different combinations and aesthetic variations.

The jewels are made with ancient coins where the coin becomes a natural part of the gold chain.

The most important are pearl jewels where pearls alternate with gold briolletes and boules of coral and turquoise, carre cut stones applied to rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces and brooches, the tubino theme, the doppio cuore, gancio and alveare motifs.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Juvenia

The Fabrique Juvenia, one of the oldest watch factories, was founded at St. Imier. In 1880, when the workshops had insufficient space, Juvenia moved to its present site at La Chaux-de-Fonds.

In 1907, Juvenia introduced its first wristwatch and started manufacturing its own movements in 1908, but gave up this production in 1925.

In 1920, Juvenia started producing wall clocks, created the automatic wristwatch in 1937 and introduced, in 1938, the famous Mystere line - a fancy transparent watch with a coloured centre on the face crystal - which is still treasured today.

In 1942, Juvenia introduced the first flat movements, thus, the flat pocket watches which were well known and popular worldwide.

Today, Juvenia exclusively produces limited series, using mainly 18k gold or a combination of gold and stainless steel. Several watches are also fitted with gold dials and diamonds with precious stones.

All Juvenia timepieces have extra flat quartz or special sophisticated mechanical movements. One of Juvenia's specialities is the limited edition super-flat skeleton watches where the mechanical movements are also entirely made in solid gold and each piece is numbered individually. The company is also famous for its 18k gold coin timepieces.

Juvenia watches which are distinctly designed is easily recognised by watch connoisseurs and are available in more than 50 countries supported by network of after-sales service centres.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Blancpain

When Jacques Blancpain initialled his first watch in 1735, he set the seal of excellence for watchmaking craftsmanship and his consummate skills have been passed down faithfully over the centuries. The tradition that was born in the Jura region of the Swiss Alps more than 250 years ago is still carried on meticulously with each Blancpain maker responsible for his own watches.

Neither are they enamoured of mass production; each minute repeater takes an average of three months to complete, with delivery time often exceeding three years. Such is the hallmark of Blancpain quality that time, paradoxically, is of little consequence in the creation of an individual watch.

As the oldest watch name in the world and one that thumbs its nose at quartz movements, Blancpain does not produce collections - only one model for men and one for ladies. And there will never be "simple" movements, only those which are masterpieces of the art of watchmaking. The ultra-thin automatic movement, the moon-phase calendar, the perpetual calendar and the minute repeater.

The Blancpain watch chimes the hour, quarter-hour and minute when required. It has more than 30 rubies and almost 300 separate parts, some finer than a human hair and all worked by hand. For all this complexity, the watch movement is only 3.2mm thick and 21mm in diameter.

A visitor, if there should be one so privileged, will not see a factory or production workshop. There are only rooms in which several watchmakers give their undivided attention to their creations at work benches.

Blancpain offers exclusively one case shape in two different sizes. True to its tradition, all component parts are made by hand. Whether a conventional leather strap or foldaway leather clasp, each bracelet is hand-sewn.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Corum Memotime

Corum's Memotime is a whole collection of timepieces dedicated to saving the sea. Since its birth in 1993, Memotime has sponsored numerous projects of various nature in the world that tries to conserve what actually takes up 80 percent of planet Earth. One example is the Jonathan Project, a clinical study on the interactions between a child and dolphins. As a watch brand that carries a universal message linked to conservation of the seas, it was perfectly natural that Memotime should design a watch for those seeking to discover the ineffable beauty of the sea. The Memotime diving watch is 100 percent Swiss-made, in solid stainless steel or steel bi-colour, water-resistant to 100 metres, with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, stainless steel screw back-case and screw-in crown, and uni-directional rotatable rider. Large models are available with automatic or quartz movements while small ones come in quartz version only. Every timepiece in the Save the Sea collection is stamped with the "Corum Design" signature, with fully recyclable parts and features the slogan "Save the Sea" in nautical pennants.

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