Monday, August 17, 2009

Ah the très sexy Polaris - 10 months and still a love affair ...

I know I haven't posted in a while, so I thought it would very much appropriate to get back to what has been in my horological sphere lately with proclaiming my ongoing love affair with this perfect baby - still going strong well over 10 months with no sign of quitting ;-)

I especially love it on this custom vintage tanned cognac calf (whose color I have always difficulty describing for some reason) and ever since spring it has been my main go to choice for a daily wearer. Just love the compliment of the vintage look with that color and the way the stitching is perfectly matched to aged tanned look of SuperLuminova - ah the details that make the perfection.

Taking it for my summer vacation where it will be at home in the deep blue of the Adriatic. I will finally switch it back to the very comfortable OEM tropic which is after all the reason this was made for - underwater and very sunny conditions.

Lastly upon my return I decided I will provide you with my one year anniversary review of this very special piece to me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In the words of Bowie: Ch-ch-Changes .... Apologies all over !

In the immortal words of David Bowie:

(turn and face the strain)
Dont want to be a richer man
(turn and face the strain)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time.

Firstly I would like to say thanks to all the kind readers and followers of this blog for your continued patronage, patience and concern. Sorry to all you that have contacted me over time especially about my abrupt lack of posting in the past six months. All I can say is sorry for dropping out on you without any clues or notice. In truth I have not abandoned this blog nor my pursuit of blogging about all things that make my mind tick especially when considering the horological sphere. However I had to deal with some personal family issues that have struck me suddenly and following that I did embark on a new professional venture which simply consumed all of my free time that I had to be dedicated to this blog.

That said currently I am trying to find a right balance in order to further incorporate my continued contribution to this blog. If I don't have time to post much of my musings or often enough it will be simply for a lack of free time and life priories rather then any abandonment issues. I hope in future to see you still visiting and enjoying the content posted as you did in the past. Now that I had that off my chest I thought it would be appropriate to end this with a great song - so would you please join Bowie and me ;-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Horology News: Jaeger-LeCoultre Wins Focus' "Goldene Unruh 2009"

Some really great news for Jaeger LeCoultre and Memovox Polaris fans, on February 26th in Stuttgart, Focus (the watch contest organized by a renowned German publication) won "Goldene Unruh 2009". For the first time in many years JLC won a first prize. In the category 10.000 - 25.000 EUR the Memovox Tribute to Polaris succeeded over Glashütte Original and Lange & Söhne. Also Master Ultra Thin (up to 5.000 EUR) and Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 (over 25.000 EUR) were very successful both came in 4th place.

This is IMO especially crowned JLC achievement as German magazines are known to be very astute, analytical and some of the best horological publication especially when considering that it bested its German rivals in its class. So congratulation to Jaeger LeCoultre on yet another achievement and another successful accolade to be added to Memovox Tribute to Polaris whose legend keeps on growing by each passing day.

Info via Marc Menant from Jeager LeCoultre

Friday, February 27, 2009

Habanos S.A. Regional Edition (Edición Regional) 2009 Series

In keeping with this month my favorite theme of Habanos Festival here are some older posts about and including all things Habanos to refresh and salivate your palate. ;-)

Since 2005, Habanos SA has released the Regional Edition (Edición Regional) Series and this year it is no exception so the following is a list of 2009 Regional Cigars (ring gauge x length in millimeters with factory name for the shape).

Bolivar - Germany - 5ta Avenida – 50 x 184 - Conde 109
Bolivar - Germany - Especiales No.2 – 38 x 192 - Delicados
Punch - Italy - Diademas Extra - 55 x 233 - Diadema
El Ray del Mundo - Italy - Torpedos - 52 x 140 - Campanas
Por Larrañaga - not allocated - Machu Picchu - 50 x 127 - Petit Piramides
Ramon Allones - not allocated - Los Andes - 50 x 141 - Gorditos
El Ray del Mundo - Baltic - Balthasar - 50 x 155 - Dobles
Por Larrañaga - Switzerland - Valiosos - 52 x 156 - Piramides
Punch - Switzerland - Pocerosos - 54 x 164 - Sublimes
Ramon Allones - Switzerland - Deliciosos - 50 x 102 - Petit Robustos
Ramon Allones - Asia Pacific - Celestiales Finos - 46 x 137 - Britanicas
Saint Luis Rey - Asia Pacific - Pacifics - 52 x 156 - Piramides
Punch - Benelux - Punch Royal - 50 x 141 - Gordito
Bolivar - Benelux - Fabulosos - 52 x 135 - Edmundo
Vegas Robaina - Benelux - Elegantes - 47 x 158 - Tacos
Vegas Robaina - Benelux - Magnificos - 52 x 135 - Edmundo
Punch - Spain - Grand Robusto - 50 x 155 - Dobles
Por Larrañaga - not allocated - unnamed - 50 x 155 - Dobles
Juan Lopez - not allocated - unnamed - 50 x 102 - Petit Robustos
El Ray del Mundo - France - Petit Coupania - 50 x 127 - Petit Piramides
Quintero - France - Small Club - 50 x 102 - Petit Robustos
Ramon Allones - Middle East - Beritus - 52 x 135 - Edmundo
Bolivar - Middle East - El Greco - 50 x 141 - Gorditos
Vegas Robaina - Canada - Petit Robaina - 52 x 110 - Petit Edmundo
Ramon Allones - Canada - Petit Unicos - 50 x 127 - Petit Pyramides
Juan Lopez - UK - Seleccion Suprema - 52 x 170 - Torre Iznagas
El Ray del Mundo - UK - Choix de L'epoque - 52 x 110 - Petit Edmundo
Punch - Scandinavia - Northern Light - 52 x 110 - Petit Edmundo
Vegas Robaina - Scandinavia - Great Northern Light - 54 x 164 - Sublimes
La Gloria Cubana - Unknown (Habanos S.A.) - Deliciosos - 48 x 127 - Hermosos No.4
Punch - India - Platino - 49 x 194 - Prominentes

In my past experience some of the Regional Editions were worth the effort to seek out and usually shell out some extra moolah (few Ramon Allones, Vegas Robaina come to mind) as a treat whilst traveling to some Cigar Mecca destinations, but in general not on my priority. The same could not be said for the Limited Editions yet for those you definitely have to just bite the bullet and repeat to yourself "you only live once thus is foolish to deny yourself the utmost quality, taste and ultimate enjoyment"! ;-)

XI Festival del Habano - light those Puros its Habanos time

During the week of the 23rd to the 27th of February, the Cuban capital is hosting the eleventh Habanos Festival, the most important event in the world for Habano cigar lovers and professionals. Each year, the Festival has acted as a showcase for the international presentations and launches of the firm’s latest and most emblematic products - the one and only Habanos Puros. This year, there are two exceptional stars of the Festival: the intro of new range of most legendary brand Montecristo the Open and the first Gran Reserva from Habanos dedicated of course to the perennial Puro brand - Cohiba.

Anyway, this celebration was against a backdrop of Habanos reporting yesterday that its global sales dropped 3 percent last year to $390 million due to the economic crisis and the rise of anti-smoking. This is from 2008 $402 million but its still up from 2005 and 2006. Sales are expected to be down this year as well quoting officials from El Laguito that they expected to produce much less cigars than the 3 million foretasted this year due to the bad global economy. And most of the cigar merchants, whether from London, Paris or Hong Kong, were bemoaning the difficulty in selling fine cigars during the event.

Habanos S.A., the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars and organizers of the festival, also mentioned the introduction of the new Trinidad Robusto T (50 x 124mm) Del Valle vitola presented in 3 packs. From the notes of Cigar Aficionado's James Suckling "What an awesome smoke. I love the rich and spicy character with a fresh, clean and floral undertone. It has all the Trinidad style that I like and more. I think it’s a 93-point smoke, non blind."

Cohiba Gran Reserva (52 ring gauge by 5 7/8 inches) was unveiled as well - the Canonazo (the factory name for the new Cohiba) and the same vitola as the regular production Siglo VI. It is made from five-year-old tobacco (the filler is all from the 2003 harvest) and comes in limited production of 5000 packaged in special box containing 15 cigars. Per Suckling "the richness and power of the smoke is overwhelming. It had such great length with coffee, tobacco and dark chocolate character that filled the mouth. It had the classic freshness of the Cohiba brand as well." Sounds like another addition to the Wish list barring it being overwhelmingly cost prohibitive like all previous special Cohiba releases.

Introduction of the four Montecristo Open sizes including:
small Junior, 38 ring gauge by 4 1/3 inches;
belicoso Regatta, 46 by 5 1/3 inches;
robusto Master, 50 by 4 7/8 inches;
supercharged robusto Eagle, 54 by 5 7/8 inches.

These four cigars carry the traditional brown and cream Montecristo band, but they also have a second green band with gold and white lettering. Open line is geared towards "the Montecristo Generation- mostly men in their 30s or 40s who want to enjoy the good things in life(think images of fantastic golf courses, luxe yachts and powerful sports cars mixed with polo tournaments, tennis matches, international regattas, and Grand Prix races)", which obviously includes a good cigar. Whatever the marketing hoopla behind it to me what matters is how they taste and smoke. If they are anything as my perennial favorite short Petit Edmundo they a say bring them on even if they are probably targeted towards bringing in that lucrative segment of casual (think special events mostly) cigar smoker. Again as reported by James Suckling "the cigars are typical Montecristo, more along the lines of Edmundo than anything else. I smoked a Master and Eagle last night, I found the Eagle the better of the two. It had the most richness and flavor to compensate for the stormy weather. There were plenty of chocolate and cream flavors with a hint of cedar. 92 points, unblind. I scored the Master 90 points, unblind." Sounds tasty to me so depending on the pricing the Regatta and Eagle could be soon in my rotation as well (fingers crossed).

Another intro was a commemorative case of the X Edition of the Habano Festival. Exclusively aimed for distribution through Las Casas del Habano and Habanos specialists stores with 20 000 cases available. It comprises of the most exclusive vitolas of Habanos brands launched in the past edition of the Habanos Festival.
During the Gala Night of the past Habano Festival, a special case was gifted to attendants in occasion of the commemoration of the X anniversary of the Habano Festivals. Due to the demand and the immediate success of this initiative, it was decided to launch a replica of said case. These Habanos are packaged in luxury black-lacquered, cabinet-shaped cases, with a selection of 10 cigars listed as follows:

* Montecristo Edmundo (Ring Gauge 52 x 135 mm long)
* Trinidad Robustos Extra (Ring Gauge 50 x 155 mm long)
* Cohiba Maduro 5 Genios (Ring Gauge 52 x 140 mm long)
* H.Upmann Magnum 50 (Ring Gauge 50 x 160 mm long))
* Romeo y Julieta Short Churchills (Ring Gauge 50 x 124 mm long)
* Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial (Ring Gauge 50 x 141 mm long)
* Partagás Serie P No 2 (Ring Gauge 52 x 156 mm long)
* Cohiba Siglo VI (Ring Gauge 52 x 150 mm long)
* San Cristóbal de la Habana Mercaderes (Ring Gauge 48 x 167 mm long)
* Cuaba Generosos (Ring Gauge 42 x 132 mm long)

The Travel Retail Selection Pack is made up by a selection of trendy sizes from three different most successful of the latest launching of Habanos brands within the past four years. The Robusto is a trendy size nowadays, so no wonder it has been chosen to be the core of this selection.

* Petit Edmundo from Montecristo: With a ring gauge 52 x 110 mm long, Petit
Edmundo is offering its medium to full flavor that has become an icon among
cigar enthusiasts around the world.
* Short Churchills from Romeo y Julieta: A classic Robusto (ring gauge 50 and
124 mm long) balanced and aromatic blend of the Vuelta Abajo leaves, making
it the classic medium bodied Habano.
* Petit Robusto from Hoyo de Monterrey: A delicate yet aromatic Habano that
is lighter to the taste but with great elegance and complexity.

Once again, Habanos s.a. gives consumers another chance to get the latest exclusivity for the Duty Free and Travel Retail channel. Aiming at the preservation as the key factor, the pack was specially made with the latest “Double Chamber” Humidifier Tube, in order to keep the Habanos inside for a long time in safe conditions. Habanos are evenly humidified from the bottom to the top. Furthermore, dry Habanos can be "recovered" in only 1 week. Another plus added is the eye-catching design, in which each tube carries out the brand logo on the side printed in a sleek surface for a better presentation. These will be available to the Duty Free market by the end of the year.

More on other 2009 Regional, Limited Editions and special releases later on.

Info via Habanos SA & CA's James Suckling.

Monday, February 9, 2009

News: Jaeger-LeCoultre’s charity online-auction of the Prototype Number 1

On February 16th, will begin an online auction of one prototype of the model Master Compressor Extreme W-Alarm Tides of Time, from its SIHH 2009 collection. Symbolizing the “Tides of Time” partnership between Jaeger-LeCoultre, the UNESCO World Heritage Center and the International Herald Tribune, this timepiece associates two of the Manufacture’s emblematic complications: an alarm and the simultaneous display of the time in 24 time zones. Three of the cities on its outer dial ring have been replaced by three natural sites - Scandola, Galapagos and Tubbataha - inscribed on the World Heritage List benefiting from a dedicated preservation programe supported by Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Proceeds from the auction will go to a World Heritage project identified by UNESCO. The Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre is involved in a three-year partnership with the UNESCO World Heritage Center and the International Herald Tribune to help promote, protect and safeguard outstanding marine sites that require specific immediate intervention.
Interested in joining the auction of the prototype Number 1 in steel and titanium of the latest Master Compressor Extreme W-Alarm ‘Tides of Time’ for World Heritage? Stay tuned from February 11th and visit Jaeger-LeCoultre’s website.

“Making Time More Beautiful” is the name of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s global strategy to counter the threats to our planet. It aims not only to preserve the manufacturing company’s exceptional natural environment, but to support projects of international scope as well. In this regard, the watchmaking company has entered into a three-year partnership with the Unesco World Heritage Centre to support the preservation of outstanding marine sites that are in immediate need of protection. To make people aware of this environmental cause, Jaeger-LeCoultre will join the International Herald Tribune in publishing information about the eight selected Unesco World Heritage sites in its “Tides of Time” section.

Info via Jeager-LeCoultre

Sunday, February 1, 2009

SIHH 2009 News: Jaeger LeCoultre introduces official channel on YouTube

I really liked the way the information was disseminated this year using various Internet media. As you know I am (and probably most everyone who is reading this blog) very internet centric so today I/we get most of my information primarily and directly via the internet. While there are many companies today that are utilizing this strategy for a various mix of marketing and information to some extent many are missing on the true potential and end reach of all available media tools.

This year Manufacture Jaeger LeCoultre again followed on their path of innovation and raised the bar a bit higher. There was a strong mix of interesting information snippets coming from JLC Le Club, Internet forums, Blogs, online/paperback magazines the one that took the cake for me was the newly introduced JLC YouTube channel . I really enjoyed having the ability to view (and review at my time and hearts content) organic and moving videos instead of just pictorials that many times display lack of that 3rd dimension. JLC YouTube channel comprises of selection of press releases presenting the newest and best of the Manufacture, previous horological achievements as well various other mini films. Notably as well a personal welcome and introduction of some SIHH 2009 novelties by JLC CEO Jerome Lambert. I think the info delivered in this manner presents for a much more personal experience for each viewer and overall a great success from what I could gather by now.

Lastly in a sign that not everyone is taking themselves too serious there is a video on top featuring two JLC collectors (one of them is yours truly) with dare I say surprising humorous twist. Check it out and tell me what you think. ;-)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Watch News: Global Recession Impacts Luxury Watches

The global recession has impacted the once recession-proof Swiss luxury watch business, according to reports from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, the Richemont Group (Cartier’s parent), and the prestigious Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie luxury watch fair in Geneva, Switzerland.

"After several record-breaking years, Swiss watch exports in November—traditionally their best month—declined (by 15.3 percent in value, compared to November 2007) for the first time in almost four years. While all price segments dropped, the fall was greatest (down 30 percent) for watches between about $435 and $2,600 (export prices)."

The declines “clearly illustrates the curb on growth suffered by the industry as a result of the world economic climate,” an FH report said. Watch exports, about 10 percent of all Swiss exports, are expected to be less this year than in 2008.

The 18th SIHH (Jan. 19 -23) expects 15 percent fewer visitors—especially from the United States and Japan—than in 2008, when 17,000 from prestigious retailers worldwide attended the invitation-only event. Some show officials and attendees blame the global economic climate and what one Swiss newspaper calls “this challenging [watch] industry environment.”

Some also suggest holding the SIHH—usually in March/April to coincide with the international Basel, Switzerland, watch fair—in mid-January, due to a scheduling conflict at Geneva’s convention center, is also a factor.

In addition, SIHH’s exhibitors canceled their traditional evening events, normally highlights of the week, which celebrate the luxury watch business, some “to save money,” said a show spokesperson.

Info via JCK-Jewelers Circular Keystone, 1/21/2009.

Horology News & Commentary: SIHH 2009 Cometh!

As the new year rolls around here cometh the SIHH 2009! Say what?

As announced last year this January appeared first-ever SIHH winter edition which saw some new features in a pretty challenging current global recession environment.

SIHH 2009 displayed the work of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, which promotes luxury watchmaking worldwide and is the SIHH’s organizer. The 2009 SIHH featured 17 of the globe’s most prestigious brands (12 owned by the Geneva-based Richemont Group). They are A. Lange & Söhne, Alfred Dunhill, Audemars Piguet, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Girard-Perregaux, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Jean Richard, Montblanc, Officine Panerai, Parmigiani Fleurier, Piaget, Ralph Lauren, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Some of the novelties and changes of the years prior:

- The Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewelry Co, a recent joint venture between the Richemont Group and the Polo Ralph Lauren fashion brand, has joined the SIHH exhibitors and unveiled its first-ever collection of timepieces. This is Richemont’s first joint venture with a luxury fashion designer and Polo Ralph Lauren’s first foray into luxury watches (more details on that later).

- Roger Dubuis will be there in a new light since the purchase by Richemont last year. The purchased manufacture movement kit facility which Richemont will continue to supply to Manufacture Roger Dubuis SA (founded and is managed by Mr Carlos Dias), under the terms of a long-term agreement. They will continue to operate as an independent manufacturer and distributor under the “Roger Dubuis” brand. It will supply the components for high end watch movements, not only for Roger Dubuis but also for Richemont’s own Maisons.

- The FH is showing the newest version of its world-traveling exhibition, “Think Time, Think Swiss Excellence,” not seen previously in Switzerland.

My visit was as well shortened to the years prior thus I didn't take as much as time to go through all the brands 2009 novelties as many of them IMO weren't truly anything groundbreaking nor was there prior years excitement due to the current economic environment affecting us all.

Unfortunately for most of us watch aficionados the main topic on most industry people minds was not the rather weak watch novelties, but instead the economic climate we are all facing in the upcoming months.

The Richemont Group, whose several prestigious international jewelry and watch brands issued a grim report this month. Important third-quarter sales dropped 12 percent overall, and 28 percent in the Americas alone, due to the global financial crisis and a decline in consumer confidence which had “a significant impact” on regional sales, it said. As a result of that the giant Cartier has put almost all 200 full-time workers making watch cases at one of its Swiss watch factories on part-time. From what I hear they are not alone either considering similar actions or already implementing planned cost cutting.

“Demand for luxury goods … has fallen dramatically,” the statement said, “and Richmond is facing the toughest market conditions since its formation 20 years ago.” With the current economic climate and uncertainties, it expects “no significant recovery in the foreseeable future” and will “take the necessary steps to not only see the difficult times through but to emerge stronger.”

From the last data I gathered there were over 600 watch related companies operating in Switzerland last year. Surely this was not all due to overwhelming insatiable demand and expansion of the watch industry seen during the last years of the horology renaissance. There were surely players in the industry that flourished yet there were some that just jumped on the gravy train and anyone (and their mother it seems) was able to get/make/buy a brand name and all of a sudden become a legitimate Swiss watchmaking company. Let's face the facts - there is no way all of them should have existed in the first place nor they will survive the current harsh environment present. This is a good thing as in my humble opinion there is about 30-40% much needed correction of these numbers. This all points that 2009 will be a undoubtedly a year of consolidation, after the unprecedented interest in technical, unique and exquisite watches of recent years had taken the industry to a level which was not reasonably expected to continue further in such manner.

So what can we expect from the year 2009 shakeout?

Only the strong and truly the value brands which were the leaders before and will continue providing not just a pretty shiny package, but a true horology advancement, innovation and value. Those leaders, as you might have suspected, are the bigger conglomerates and companies which sheer scale & magnitude of their resources puts them in the best position to adjust in order overcome this economic downturn.
Although being big company does not guarantee the survival if there is not capable or nimble upper management ready to to adjust their product to this changing market. There will undoubtedly be plenty of consolidation. Smaller fish will be eaten by the bigger and bolder competitors while other brands presenting little of actual horological or marketing value will be left alone to deservedly DIE! This weeding of the weak in the end is a good thing as it will leave us with more healthy and naturally stronger horological field benefiting us all in the end.

We have seen some minor effects already:
- Zenith announced some firings in its watchmaking workforce.
- Villemont seems to be the very first bankruptcy casualty.
- Bedat & Co. is being reported as currently being shut down.

Speaking at SIHH, Bernard Fornas (Cartier International President & CEO), told Reuters that “real, true luxury is back,” because the financial crisis is changing consumers attitudes and buying. “When people are buying something they are very tough with their choice of brands,” he said, and are now more likely to favor “strong” luxury brands, rather than lower-priced ones which call themselves luxury. Still, echoing Richemont's forecast, Fornas told Reuters, that currently “we don't see where the end of the tunnel is and we see no cause for optimism."

What to add in the end, except so very true!

Daily thoughts, musings & interests about anything (mostly horology) that currently makes my soul & grey matter tick.