Sunday, September 23, 2012

Demystifying Marcus

As you walk down Bond Street, past the rather spooky life-casted windows of Louis Vuitton, and the tourists sitting with Winston Churchill, there's a bright, glass-filled window on the right-hand side. The door is overlooked by a red awning and framed by a flag bearing the name of the owner in a distinctive, stylised font. The store is Marcus; its owner Marcus Margulies; and it sells dreams.

The Union Pocket Watch by AP

Accompanied by fellow watchnerd GregD, I spent some time yesterday with Liam Chadzynski, exploring part of Marcus' immense catalogue of watches, clocks and pocket watches, including a display of Audemars Piguet pieces that form part of (probably) the most complete collection of complicated and rare AP's anywhere in the world. It's a quite staggering exhibition, and worthy of a visit by any serious #watchnerd. But to be able to see some of the unique pieces that Marcus has commissioned, along with some truly marvellous watches from some of the watch world's finest manufactures, was a rare treat. Out came watches from Greubel Forsey, MB&F, URWERK, as well as Alain Silberstein, Hublot and MCT. It was like an haute horologie tasting dinner. First up was a brush with history: the Union Uhr is described as one of the most complicated pocket watches and arguably the most important piece ever created by Audemars Piguet. Marcus purchased it at auction in 1993, apparently paying over seven times the estimate. The original case is massive - it weighs 0.4kg and is over 80mm across. So Marcus has a second (and, indeed, third) case made, that better suited the movement. 

It is unlikely that a pocket watch like this will ever be made again - Marcus believes that "the craftsmen do not exist today and the cost would run into millions." It's rare to see such an item; even rarer to hold it. To hear its exquisite repeater was unprecedented

The URWERK UR-1001
From the 19th Century to the 21st (or should that be 22nd?). URWERK created the UR-1001 last year - a pocket watch that combines ten complications including a flying hour satellite indicator and retrograde minutes. On the back, there's a 100 and 1,000 year indicator - truly a watch for the next millennium. Then came the MB&F watches: a rose gold HM3 Frog Moonmachine; the HM4 Thunderbolt "Double Trouble"; and a HM2 Sapphire Vision. Please click through to see more photos and videos of these watches.

Unique Greubel Forsey GMT for Marcus Watches
To see one Greubel Forsey might be considered lucky. To see an entire table full? Words began to fail me about now, as I busied myself trying to take photos to cover up the fact that I was practically speechless. First there was the full Invention Piece set - a collection of the three pieces in a special presentation case. It's difficult to describe these watches - part watch, part pure horological experiment. Phrases such as "quad tourb" and "24 second tourbillon" whizzed past my head as my companions discussed the relative merits of the various degrees of inclined tourbillons and the asynchronicity of the four independent tourbs. And then the reveal: a diamond-like carbon- (DLC) coated platnum-cased novelty - the Greubel Forsey GMT. Of course, it was absolutely stunning: UTC perceived as a rotating, titanium globe; one's existence reduced to the size of a marble. In a way, it's a little humbling - but by then, perhaps, I was reading too much in to these devices.

And then a unique example, the Balanciers (previously 'blogged by Hodinkee during their short visit to London last week). It's the first (only?) GF *not* to contain a tourbillon, and uses the average of two, separate escapements to show the blended time. This last piece is truly unique, and a wonderful example of the pieces that only Marcus can supply. This isn't just a watch is a "unique" case, or unusual finish. This is one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated. An outstanding way to end a visit.

Thank you to Liam, Alex and all at Marcus for letting me take a peek inside their world. Please do arrange to visit the Audemars Piguet Exhibition - it's full of fantastic jump hours, unusual chronographs and even the world's smallest minute repeater. 

More photos and videos can be found here.

the #watchnerd

Friday, September 14, 2012

An engaging design...

As you may have gathered from a) my Flickr stream and b) many of my watch choices, I’m a bit of a #gaugenerd. Whether it’s the twin fuel gauge of a DeHavilland Mosquito, an oil-filled bourdon tube depth gauge for SCUBA, or the simplicity of a Jaeger Amperemeter, it’s pretty safe to say that I’ll naturally gravitate towards it – usually with a camera in hand. In fact, I've even been involved in a Limited Edition Bremont BC-S2 that ATG VIntage Watches has on the go; the ATG LE aims to capture the black dial, high viz green / white numerals and battered black finish of some of those old Smiths aeronautical gauges found in the cockpit of the Supermarine Spitfire. But I digress.

The Officine Autodromo Vallelunga
Officine Autodromo is a new watch company that aims to blend a love of the romantic heyday of pre-F1 motor racing with crisp, modern design. Launched last year, the range takes inspiration from a time when Gran Turismo was synonymous with grand tourers from Bentley, Alfa or Ferrari, rather than a PlayStation game.

The Officine Auodromo Brescia
There are currently two models, the Brescia: a stripped back, black dialled, black-PVD'd piece that’s devoid of numerals, powered by a Swiss-made Ronda 4003.B Quartz; and the Vallelunga: a more obviously speedometer-inspired three-handed model. In addition, there’s a chronograph version of the Vallelunga (incorporating a Swiss-made Ronda 5020.B Quartz). All three pieces appear to use the same 42mm case, and are water resistant to 3atm. I like the bold styling and large dial / crystal, that maximises the visible area. Motoring cues are everywhere: from the perforated leather straps that evoke the soft leather of driving gloves, to the red-lined dials and indices. The Brescia (above) and Vallelunga retail at $465 (or £289 via the UK Authorised Dealer - Page & Cooper ), while the Vallelunga Chrono is $550 (£339). More models are planned – I saw a prototype last night on the wrist of the owner and designer of Officine Autodromo which looked very impressive indeed.

I think Officine Autodromo may have gained another member of the #autodromisti.

the #watchnerd