Professional Jeweler Archive: High Mech Returns

July 2001


High Mech Returns

Timepiece brands update lines with manual and automatic movements for savvy consumers

The resurgence of interest in timepieces with manual or automatic movements is reflected in introductions at this year’s spring trade shows. For example, many primarily quartz brands now offer more automatic models. Gucci, for one, introduced its first mechanical timepiece, a classic-looking men’s manual-wind model. Michel Herbelin has a new collection of automatic men’s timepieces called Newport J-Class.

In addition, brands known primarily for men’s mechanical watches now produce more of them for women. Fortis, for example, enters the women’s market with colorful automatic chronographs.

Here are more details of the major tech/mech trends among the spring introductions.

Power Reserve Indicators

This dial feature, intended to be attractive as well as useful, is seen on many new dress watches. It highlights the longer reserve power being added to mechanical movements.


The strong, light and hypoallergenic metal continues to gather adherents, most recently among higher-end sport and dress watch brands.

Big Dates

Easy-to-read dial displays are now established features in a wide price range. They’re also seen in the expanding group of analog-digital watches.

Perpetual Calendars

IWC and Ulysse Nardin add a perpetual calendar to new sport watches (UN has the first mechanical dive watch with a perpetual calendar). Quartz watches increasingly include this feature, boosting demand for it in mechanicals.

New In-House Movements

Vacheron Constantin’s Malte Grande Classique features the Calibre 1400, the company’s new manual movement. Parmigiani Fleurier introduces its Calibre 331 Automatic movement only two years after unveiling an eight-day power reserve manual movement. Chopard’s new tonneau watch (Professional Jeweler, May 2001, p. 88) features its own LUC 6.96 tonneau-shaped movement. Ulysse Nardin’s Freak watch has no dial, no crown and no real hands, but a fully visible movement that rotates once per hour. The “hands” are the position of the bridges in the movement.

Progress Watch AG, a Swiss movement company, has a new and much-discussed tourbillon that’s inside several prominent brands. The company also plans two automatic movements for delivery later this year.

Cartier’s Privee collection features the new 437 MC movement (which it makes in collaboration with Piaget) in three platinum and gold timepieces as well as two customized complications (in collaboration with Girard-Perregaux and Frederic Piguet) that feature a tourbillon automatic movement inside a white gold Pasha and a perpetual calendar in its famed Tortue case.


Tech attention is shifting from power reserves last year to the tourbillon – a rotating cage that reduces the effect of gravity on the enclosed balance wheel/escapement. (The tourbillon was patented exactly two centuries ago

by Abraham-Louis Breguet.) Introducing new tourbillon-equipped watches this year are Cartier, Breguet, Patek Philippe, Girard-Perregaux, Harry Winston, F.P. Journe, Glashutte, Blancpain, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet.

Traditionally, tourbillon timepieces are expensive because of the laborious process required to make the finely tuned and often highly decorated component. This explains their rarity and use in primarily high-end watches. But this year, several brands are using the new tourbillon made by Progress Watch. The company uses computerized construction and fewer pieces to create a lower-priced tourbillon that, according to watch brands, can shave at least $20,000 off the price of a timepiece.

Brands using the new tourbillon include Xemex, Chronoswiss (Professional Jeweler, June, p. 100), Frederique Constant and Ikepod (Pro- fessional Jeweler, May 2001, p. 81). Next year, RGM of Lancaster, PA, plans to introduce a U.S.-made timepiece using a Progress tourbillon.

– by Michael Thompson

Teach the Customer

The expansion of prequartz technology – manual-wind and automatic timepieces – has occurred as consumers search for finer timepieces.

In many cases, customers first learn about automatics when their favorite brand adds them to the basic line. In other cases, watch-savvy retailers introduce a customer to his or her first automatic timepiece. (Retailers report the always hot-selling Rolex is the most popular introduction to automatics for U.S. watch buyers.)

Consumers ready for their first battery-free watches also can choose from among the increasingly numerous watches made with ETA’s Autoquartz technology, Seiko’s Kinetic models or Citizen’s Eco-Drive.

Each of these technologies requires staff training. So ask your watch company rep for a training session.

– M.T.

Vacheron Constantin’s tonneau-shaped mechanical 1790 SQ movement features a tourbillon, power reserve indicator and date hand. Its openwork skeleton movement is visible through front and back. It’s made in platinum ($129,000) or 18k pink gold ($119,000).

Vacheron Constantin, New York City; (212) 303-5030.

Breguet, named for the man who invented the tourbillon 200 years ago, pays homage to the patent with this 18k rose gold Classique model, limited to 200 pieces. The seconds hand rotates atop the tourbillon at 6 o’clock. The lid opens and closes, leaving visible the hand-guillochéd dial.

Montres Breguet, L’Abbaye, Switzerland; (41-21) 841-9090,

The Freak by Ulysse Nardin has no conventional dial, no crown and no real hands. The fully visible movement rotates once per hour, and its “hands” are the position of the bridges in the movement. Retail, $26,800 in rose gold, $29,800 in white gold.

Ulysse Nardin, Boca Raton, FL; (561) 988-8600.

Michel Herbelin expands into higher-end automatics with the new J Class. This Automatic GMT features a power reserve indicator and a sapphire case back to see the decorated and modified ETA 2892 movement. Suggested retail, $1,995.

Michel Herbelin, Snellville, GA; (678) 344-8080,

Diver models and titanium continue their upward trend among men’s watches. This automatic Diverscope by Daniel JeanRichard is made in titanium and features an interior bezel that rotates using the crown on the left. It’s water-resistant to 1,000 feet. Suggested retail, $2,250.

Daniel JeanRichard, Rutherford, NJ; (877) 357-8463,

Eberhard introduces an innovative way to read chronograph dials. Aligned from left are the counters for minutes, hours, 24 hours and the small seconds. The Chrono 4 is made in steel (shown) or 18k pink gold.

Eberhard, Bienne, Switzerland; (41-32) 342-5141,

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications