aBlogtoWatch's own Matt Smith-Johnson visited Derek in his shop recently, and his free-flowing interview with Derek follows.
The fictional character's coat-of-arms can be seen from the below screen shot taken from 007: In Her Majesty's Secret Service. The coat-of-arms is used to tile the blue-colored face of the > 15,007 watch, as well as for the counter-weight of the seconds hand. Also, there is a special automatic rotor design visible through the sapphire crystal caseback on the rear of the watch case.
You can imagine the joy I felt after asking a question to the artist, during the press conference, about the parallel (if any) of his Leonardo DaVinci-esque beasts’ design to mechanical watch movements, that Olivier Audemars (member of owning family and Chief Officer of Audemars Piguet) stood up and added a thoroughly philosophical yet personal viewpoint to my question. After that, it was clear that I needed to sit down with him and find out more.
After Richard Mille, we landed at the Beverly Hills Westime boutique. Westime, for me, was one of the two stand out highlights of the trip (and I'll get to the other one a bit later). Though it is tough competition, Westime had what I really love: a huge selection of ultra high-end independent brands. It was a who-is-who of watches, from Urwerk to HYT, up to my favorite: MB&F. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was the smaller Westime, & we'd be hitting the bigger one after lunch. Incredible.
I've been close with Swiss watch designer Yvan Arpa for years, and I understand his particular blend of humor and unorthodox style. So with that said, his recent "announcement" about how he personally plans to benefit from the inevitable success of the Apple Watch (hands-on here) and other smartwatch devices, does not come as a particular surprise. Yvan Arpa cleverly sees a market in luxury smartwatch modification. See, for example, his mockups of a re-cased Apple Watch, in a novel solid gold case with loads of baguette-cut diamonds.
The name Patek Philippe is among the most powerful in the entire watch industry. Patek Philippe remains an independent company whose secrets and plans are tightly guarded, and its most exclusive watches often go directly from the factory to the hands of the world's most prestigious collectors – never to be displayed in a store counter or window. When it comes to high-end timepiece auction prices, Patek Philippe leads the pack, easily dominating all other watch makers in regard to achieving regular, record-setting prices. In this up-to-date selection we picked 17 of the rarest and most expensive watches the manufacture has ever created, so see them go from .5 million all the way to million.
Darakjian Jewelers: Detroit is a great watch market. It has its roots in the automotive industry as you already know, and watches and cars go hand in hand. Men like gadgets, whether it be watches or cars! The affinity towards working toys for men has been forever in Detroit. The watch market is pretty strong, and not only for the usual suspects. Exotic brands also sell in our area. Most of our collectors have second homes also elsewhere. This is the place they work and earn. In their travels they see things, and to deliver the kind of service that Darakjian Jewelers is known for, we need to keep in tune to the complete watch industry. New brands, exotic brands, brand announcements, brand shifts, and personalities. Detroit is a conservative, hard working community, and when they want, they want the finer things in life.
When we went hands-on with the Arnold & Son DTE at Baselworld 2014, the brand also had a tiny, vintage pocket watch to show with their 2014 novelty. Sebastien Chaulmontet (Arnold & Son's head of movement development, who we interviewed for our Grail Watch article series here) said that this tiny watch with its white enamel dial, blued hands, red gold case, and exposed mechanism inspired him with the design of the Arnold & Son DTE. The similarities are quite obvious, although it is fascinating to see the differences in size and, of course, intended purpose: one was designed and made decades or perhaps centuries ago and painstakingly crafted to invisibly hide in ones pocket, while the other is relatively large (even by today's standards, at 43.5 millimeters wide) and is worn on the wrist, where it is – for the most part – exposed for everyone to see.
JK: Growing up in Iran in the early '70s, I'd always go to watch stores and look in the windows at my favorite watches that I couldn't afford. Every day, starting around age ten, I'd go look at the watches I couldn't buy! Many years passed; I left Tehran and came to U.S. in the late '70s to escape the Iranian Revolution. I finished high school in Santa Monica, California and then studied production-operation management for manufacturing in college. I started a business in the 1990s distributing Apple Computers, and then got into real estate; I've also worked on products for the motorcycle and medical industry, which is what I do today. And when I began making a lot of money, I started collecting the watches that I'd always dreamed of since I was a very young kid and never got to have.
Now came the fun part. All watches are curved to some degree for arm comfort. The lugs usually curve down towards the wrist to conform to our rounded arms. I needed the watch to be equally comfortable either face up or face down. By balancing the placement of the lugs towards the middle with no bias towards the back or front, I achieved the right weight balance for the watch. Then, by designing and creating articulating lugs that are “designed finish” on all sides - meaning, the lugs are fine polished and have a finished bevel on both sides - I was able to manufacture the watch that could be reversed!
What exactly should the watch industry do? According to MarketWatch, even the US Consulate in Hong Kong hasn't taken a position on the issue of whether they support the Chinese government or the protesters in Hong Kong. The major players in the watch industry have a lot to lose by becoming an outspoken critic or supporter of either side of the issue. At the same time, they are trying to not only deal with decreasing sales in Hong Kong, but slowing demand for luxury watches in China which apparently started in 2012.
I have one friend with a collection that can only be described as completely epic, and no one gets a bigger thrill seeing the joy come across our faces than he does when he brings out something truly, and I mean TRULY spectacular (like a piece made by the master himself, George Daniels). Truth is, most of the time, many of us are wearing a watch made by someone no one has ever heard of. Let’s be honest, even by watch collector’s standards, very few have heard the names Kari Voutilainen, Ludovic Ballouard, and/or Thomas Prescher.
The next one is inspired by the sky, namely space. This is an almost kitschy look at the achievements of space travel and how watches have been a big part of that celebration. The Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 Space is "a watch for the guys who took a giant step for mankind!" Be it in space or otherwise. It is "the no. 1 Star-Watch to wear when being among Stars!" It plays with the concept of luxury and stars (as they are part of the texture of the gold).
This PVD-black version of the Diver is in steel, but other versions are in titanium. The case is just under 47mm wide and quite long given the design of the case. It is also 17mm thick. The case is amazingly unique and wonderfully designed for what it is. The case has an inner section that pops up securely as you press two buttons on the side of the case. Popping the watch up not only is a neat trick, but is also what unlocks the rotating diver's bezel. And what a bezel it is. Not only does turning the outer bezel move the inner bezel (all on a watch with 1000 meters of water resistance), but the sound it makes is fantastic. You can hear it in the review video, actually.
Pop stars and watches tend to make for a less-than-dynamic duo. All too often, when it comes to their watches, these celebrities make more misses than hits – usually choosing the gaudiest, most expensive timepiece (or its replica fake) they can find. That’s where Aloe Blacc stands head and shoulders above his peers. The dapper, staggeringly charismatic 35-year-old soul singer/hit songwriter might actually be coming up behind the likes of John Mayer as one of pop’s more horologically savvy hip cats.
Ultimately, what makes this piece succeed is that it is less demonstrative of John Coltrane per se than something he might actually have worn! Jazz musicians, of course, were the first GQ dudes: they wore the finest suits and timepieces of their time (Miles certainly loved his Breitling, among others) that exuded what we now revere as Mad Men-style retro-hipster cool. As such, the Oris John Coltrane Limited Edition embodies mid-century-modern elegance in its starkly minimal black dial and thin sticks of steel for hour markers. They're broken up only by the minutes/seconds track: as seen through the curve of the wonderfully domed sapphire crystal, it adds a subtle cobalt shimmer to the dial’s midnight monochrome. It’s a surprisingly legible, yet interesting, presentation. By making a parallel between jazz references and vintage design cues, the Oris John Coltrane Limited Edition conveys a sophisticated understanding that jazz is ultimately synonymous with modernism, a true expression of a distinctly 20th century revolutionary aesthetic.
The IWC Aquatimer Deep Three contains IWC's mechanical depth gauge system that does two things. It measures your current depth to a max of 50 meters, and it also indicates your max depth for a particular dive. 50 meters might not sound that deep, but it is more than OK for recreational dives. The system is easy to read and uses a red and blue indicator hand around the periphery of the dial. A pusher allows you to reset the max dive depth hand.
Once the baseplate was finished, I began work on the crystal which covers the face of the Urwerk UR-202. This was by far the most difficult single component to design. Urwerk’s case designs are very unique, so in turn, a unique crystal must also be designed to fit the case properly. This piece is not just a generic circle but a whole array of complex splines and cutaways that are not easily designed – let alone manufactured. When creating this piece in Solidworks, I realized just how tight the clearance was between itself and the rotating barrels beneath it. There was about 0.3 millimeters (0.0118 inches) of play between the two, so making sure it all lined up perfectly was absolutely crucial.
The concept of "sporty" luxury watches actually kind of started with the original Royal Oak in 1972. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Survivor takes that approach to another level, as the totally-legit reviewer Maserati Matt tells us: