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A Beginner’s Guide To The GMT Bezel

As something of a nerd for travel watches, I can’t help but obsess over the myriad permutations that exist within the basic concept of a watch that shows the time in two (or more) places. I am also routinely surprised by how often I cross paths with someone who doesn’t know how to get the full functionality from their travel watch. Predictably, this happens most commonly with the most common form of the travel watch, the GMT.

Largely popularized by the Rolex GMT-Master and GMT-Master II models, a standard GMT can come in a few flavors, but the core functionality is tied to the presence of both a 24-hour hand and a rotating 24-hour bezel. The movement in use can be a flyer (local-jumping hour) or a caller (independent 24-hour hand), but the ability to track the additional timezone is derived from the additional 24-hour hand, and the ability to do even more comes from being able to rotate the 24-hour bezel.

Is the following guide going to be both reductive and also somewhat pedantic? You better believe it. But you might just thank me the next time you need to change the indicated 2nd timezone on your GMT because you’ll be able to do so without so much as touching the crown or moving any of the hands.

Most of the time that I see someone using a GMT, they have it set like a traditional “dual time” watch, where the local time is displayed on the main hands, and the 24-hour hand shows the time in a second time zone by reading the bezel in its default position (shown below, with zero-hour at logical 12 o’clock position on the dial). While this is fine, and indeed is the feature set provided by any fixed-bezel “GMT” (actually a dual time) like a Rolex Explorer II, it doesn’t harness all that your 24-hour GMT is capable of – to get the most out of the watch, you need to use the bezel.

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The Longines Master Collection Small Seconds

As a general rule, if you engrave Breguet numerals in a dial, it’s probably going to grab my attention. Longines introduced the Master Collection Small Seconds in 2023 after the beautiful and well-received Master Collection 190th Anniversary. The Small Seconds is smaller and thicker than the anniversary collection, measuring 38.5mm and 10.2mm thick (20mm lug width). It comes in three dial colors: salmon, anthracite, and silver, all with different textures that add a distinct character. Recently, I was able to get hands-on with the salmon and anthracite, and it quickly affirmed that the Master Collection Small Seconds is one of my favorite budget-minded Swiss dress watches.

This is filed under “Value Proposition,” so let’s get right to it: the Master Collection Small Seconds runs $250. I’m not saying this is some screaming deal, but more like – Longines makes a hell of a watch for the price. It’s a nice counterpoint to the equally vintage-inspired Heritage Classic Sector Dial.

While the design draws on dress watches of Longines’ past, it’s not a reissue of any specific reference. The engraved Breguet numerals (perhaps a callback to vintage Longines like this one), leaf hands, and small seconds subdial hit all the right notes. This is heritage inspiration done right. While I enjoy the more modern look of the anthracite and its grained texture, the salmon is the stand-out for me. The dial is vertically brushed, with the hands and engraved indices in a contrasting off-black.

The 38.5mm case is entirely polished. It sits a bit thicker than I’d prefer for a watch like this, but it’s still wearable. The thickness feels most noticeable in the steeply sloped rehaut, making the domed bezel sit higher a bit tall. At 45mm lug-to-lug, the proportions work well on my 6.25-inch wrist.

The Master Collection Small Seconds dial is beautiful and well-executed. The engraved Breguet numerals look sharp, and I’m not sure any other brand offers a similar aesthetic at this price point. Simply put, it’s hard to think of a better-looking dial in a dress watch at this price.

The small seconds dial is snailed, offering a nice contrast to the brushed salmon dial. While salmon has been a hot dial color the past few years, this particular execution feels considered and thoughtful. The “Automatic” text at the top of the dial is small enough that it’s not a huge distraction. The biggest potential design flaw, as I see it, is the way the subdial cuts off the “7.” I don’t have an issue with cut-off numerals generally, but it feels a little unfair to 7 that “5” doesn’t get the same treatment. At least, it leaves a slightly asymmetrical feeling.

The numerals and leaf hands are black and provide a nice contrast to the salmon dial. The different textures of the three dial colors illustrate Longines’ attention to detail with this collection. The anthracite dial has a granular finish that almost looks like a frosting in certain lights, providing a different texture to the dial. It gives this dial a more modern vibe, but the rose gold numerals and plated hands bring it back into the realm of dressy. I didn’t see the silver dial, but it’s the most traditional of the bunch, with a more finely-grained surface.

The Master Collection Small Seconds uses the automatic Longines caliber L893, essentially an upgraded ETA 2892. It beats at 3.5 Hz and upgrades the ETA movement with a silicon hairspring. Also notable is the increased 72-hour power reserve, higher than the ETA’s standard 42ish hours.

The Small Seconds is nearly 1mm thicker than the 190th Anniversary edition, and much of this comes down to the movement. Moving from center seconds to small seconds requires some re-gearing. While the dial does feel more balanced with the small seconds, this is the slight tradeoff in wearability.

The L893 is visible through a sapphire caseback, and looks predictably industrial. The typical refrain from enthusiasts at this price point is that a closed caseback would’ve been better, while granting that there’s a supposed broader commercial demand to see the mechanical marvel that we, the enlightened enthusiasts, too often take for granted. I wonder if it’s too much to ask for the option of either? Seeing a Longines caliber doesn’t offend my sensibilities (make yourself decent, Longines!), but these sapphire casebacks often come at the cost of a case that wears slightly thicker.

Each of the Master Collection Small Seconds comes on a comfortable, padded alligator strap with a deployant, which means it’s easy to get a perfect fit. That said, I’d like to normalize brands offering their dressier watches on more casual straps. I’d quickly throw this on a more casual calfskin or suede strap to dress it down more. But these are minor quibbles – the Master Collection Small Seconds is beautifully executed by Longines, and exactly the type of heritage inspiration infused in modern watchmaking that I love to see.

But if you want a new, dressy watch from a Swiss brand with some heritage inspiration – along with real ties to that heritage – it’s hard to think of anything much better than the Longines Master Collection Small Seconds.

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HERMÈS Slim d’Hermès Le Sacre des Saisons

Regarded as one of the most refined luxury retailers, Hermès is renowned for its exquisite artisanal craftsmanship and intrepid artistic flair. The Maison’s unique style, safeguarded by current creative director Philippe Delhotal, is often transversal, taking design cues from one product line and incorporating them into another. Recently, Hermès watchmaking sector has turned to the brand’s famous line of silk scarves as inspiration for its dials. The latest quartet of Slim d’Hermès models revisits a series of silk scarves designed by artist Pierre Marie, brought to life with a variety of métiers d’art.
Pierre Marie has been a creative partner of HERMÈS Slim d’Hermès Le Sacre des Saisons since 2009. His quartet of scarf designs – Le Sacre des saisons – personifies each season with a fantastical animal executing a dance step. Inspired by the Baroque costumes designed by Henri de Gissey for the ballet “Les Fêtes de Bacchus” in the 17th century and the exotic, colourful costumes created by Leon Bakst for the Ballets Russes in the early 1920s, Pierre Marie’s imaginary animals are richly attired.
The stage chosen for the performance is the elegant 39.5mm Slim d’Hermès dress watch designed by Philippe Delhotal in 2015. Defined by its pure lines and slim profile, the watch is fitted with the ultra-slim 2.6mm Vaucher manufacture calibre H1950 with a micro-rotor.
Deploying the brand’s extensive artisanal skills, each dial is decorated using a different technique. The HERMÈS Slim d’Hermès Le Sacre des Saisons Winter model comes in a white gold case set with 52 baguette-cut diamonds and depicts a wolf. Using miniature enamel painting, the ice wolf is caught leaping through a wintry scene as he offers a golden fruit in his left hand. The beautiful combination of blues used to depict the enamel scenery is complemented by a series of golden details in relief that are the result of the delicate art of paillonné enamel. Paillonné involves inserting wafer-thin gold foil to highlight a particular area, which is then coated with translucent enamel. You can appreciate the intricate work on the ice wolf’s cape, the details of his costume and the fruit.
A horse represents spring with a beautiful flower-strewn mantle framed by a rose gold case with 66 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel. The apple-green chrysoprase dial is the background for the impressive miniature painting to depict the horse. Instead of being a flat representation, the artist has applied layer after layer of paint to create relief, bringing the flowers and horse to life.
As the HERMÈS Slim d’Hermès Le Sacre des Saisons advance, the colour palette gets bolder, and Summer explodes with a vibrant display of bright yellows, greens, oranges and pinks. Summer is represented by a lion with beams of light emanating from his mane and a collar of sunbeams. More contemporary in attitude, the lion makes the peace sign with his left hand and holds two cherries in his right. Housed in a white gold case with 66 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel, the lion is engraved in sapphire crystal and painted from the back of the dial, exalting the bright lemon chrysoprase and the radiant colours of the scenery.
Finalising the HERMÈS Slim d’Hermès Le Sacre des Saisons is the dial dedicated to the rich colours and textures of Autumn, framed by a white gold case. The animal representing autumn is a majestic eagle carved by hand in gold using traditional burins and chisels. The micro-relief engraving is highlighted with a vivid colour palette of rose, russet, pink, orange and gold, also meticulously applied by hand. Caught in mid-dance, his wings and cuffs are depicted by a flurry of autumn leaves, while his arms are festooned with swirling gold ribbons.
There is art in nature, but not everyone has the gift of channeling its splendour. HERMÈS Slim d’Hermès Le Sacre des Saisons is among the luxury marques blessed with sensitivity and savoir-faire to not just capture nature’s beauty but elevate it with poetic flair.

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ULYSSE NARDIN Classico Manara Declic

Milo Manara, legendary Italian artist and writer of erotic comic books, and the independent watchmaking Manufacture Ulysse Nardin, renowned for its know-how in rare crafts, are joining forces to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the artist’s famous masterpiece, “Click!” (Le déclic).

Born in northern Italy, Manara has been a graphic illustrator and scriptwriter for over 50 years. A classically trained painter, he studied the works of Rubens, Caravaggio and De Chirico, before establishing his own style and becoming the master of realistic comic books of an erotic nature.

“Click!”, one of Manara’s most famous works launched in 1983, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and its iconography has inspired Ulysse Nardin in his tribute to the artist.

Following a first collaboration between Ulysse Nardin and Ulysse Nardin Classico Manara on the theme of eternal eroticism in 2019, this second series of three timepieces marks the continuation of this special relationship, revealing three reproductions of iconic and historic illustrations from the erotic comic book “Click!”.

Manara and Ulysse Nardin Classico Manara celebrated this event last 21st and 22nd of April 2023 at the famous Huberty & Breyne art gallery in Paris, an international reference of the 9th art in the comic book world. As well as many illustrations from the work displayed in the art gallery, visitors discovered the 150-year-old watchmaking art of miniature painting. At the heart of the Swiss Jura mountains, in the town of Le Locle, the artisans at Ulysse Nardin Manufacture perpetuate this exceptional rare craft that requires incomparable manual dexterity. Hundreds of hours of painting are needed to accurately reproduce Manara’s illustrations in miniature on the watch dials, whose surface area is almost ten times smaller than the original illustrations.

This new 40-mm Ulysse Nardin Classico Manara collection, presented in a limited edition of 40 pieces for each illustration, features an UN-320 self-winding Manufacture movement and incorporates the silicon technology that Ulysse Nardin has mastered for two decades, and which guarantees operational efficiency and durability. The crown of this new limited edition is adorned with red lacquer, paying tribute to the button on the famous erotic remote control illustrated in Manara’s “Click!”. The hands are discreet, to give pride of place to the illustrations and artistic expression.

Ulysse Nardin is an independent Manufacture producing advanced timepieces for explorers in pursuit of freedom.

Founded by Mr. Ulysse Nardin in 1846, the company owes its reputation to its links with the sea: its onboard marine chronometers are among the most award-winning and reliable ever designed. A pioneer in innovative technologies and the use of high-tech materials such as silicium, Ulysse Nardin is one of the few integrated manufactures with the in-house expertise to produce its own high-precision components and movements. In 2001, the Maison changed the face of contemporary watchmaking by launching the first Freak.

Today, in the Swiss towns of Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds, Ulysse Nardin Classico Manara remains devoted to its quest for watchmaking perfection in four collections: Freak, Blast, Diver and Marine.

As of 2022, Ulysse Nardin and sister Maison Girard-Perregaux have formed an independent collective of high horology Manufactures.

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BREGUET Marine Alarme Musicale 5547

Back in June, I wrote an introductory article for the new Breguet Marine models for 2020. Although technically not new models, the three new additions to the collection debuted a full metal bracelet. In my article, I expressed my appreciation for the engineering, the quality, and the finishing of the watches and especially the new bracelets. Fast forward a couple of months, and I had a chance to find out whether the watches and bracelets are as impressive as I had envisioned them being. I had a chance to go hands-on with the Breguet Marine Alarme Musicale.

Before I started writing this article, I thought about how to make this work. The first thing that came to mind was a photo essay of Bert’s incredible images of the watch. In essence, they will tell you a big part of the story, from the tremendous overall presence to the incredibly detailed dial to the simply brilliant bracelet. Just looking at the pictures is enough to recognize this is an exquisite piece of craftsmanship.
But it would also be selling the watch short. Because the feeling I got from putting the Marine Alarme Musicale on my wrist was pretty impressive. No, this watch deserves a full review based on its transformative power. The BREGUET Marine Alarme Musicale 5547 is not just any rose gold watch. Seeing this, picking it up, putting it on your wrist, and wearing it is a layered process going from respectful appreciation to blissful admiration.
Checking out the watch and wearing it for a short time was enough to win me over. This Marine Alarme Musicale made a lasting impression on me and had my facial expression go from amazed to mesmerized to sheer joy. Part of the experience was due to the watch’s incredible rose gold presence. But quickly followed by the impact of the dial, the complications, the finishing, the excellent eye for detail, and the impeccable quality of manufacturing. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving.
As I explained in my article on the Breguet Marine Tourbillon Équation Marchante 5887 — the flagship of the Marine collection — the story of the Marine collection goes back to 1815. In that year, Abraham-Louis Breguet was appointed Horloger de la Marine Royale. Being the official chronometer maker to the French Royal Navy was one of the most prestigious titles a watchmaker could have at that time. And over the decades, Abraham-Louis Breguet and his sons and grandsons created an extensive series of marine chronometers for the French Royal Navy.
Inspired by both that story and the design of the marine chronometers, Breguet introduced the Marine collection back in 1990. In 2005 we saw the introduction of the second generation of the Marine collection. In 2018 Breguet introduced the third and current generation of the Marine collection. Within the collection, the Marine 5517, 5527, and 5547 are the three timepieces that form the backbone of the collection. The 5517 is the 40mm three-hander, the 5527 is the 42.3mm chronograph, and this 5547 is the 40mm Alarme Musicale.
All three models are available in titanium, white gold, and rose gold. Up until this year, the titanium version was the only one available on a bracelet. But for 2020, Breguet introduced all three of the models with white gold and rose gold bracelets as well. A smart move as it gives these Breguet sports watches a sportier aesthetic, and on top of that, the bracelets are my preferred option for the Marine models. After experiencing the bracelets, it’s hard — or simply impossible — to go back to a leather strap.
Balazs reviewed the white gold Marine 5517 a couple of weeks ago, and he discussed a great topic. In his review, Balazs perfectly explained the defining character of Breguet within the world of watches combined with the power of the brand to evolve with the times. Essentially Breguet has managed to shake the somewhat old fashioned perception over these last couple of years with the Marine collection without losing that classical Breguet feeling.
The brand has come up with new watches that have taken an enormous step forward in their contemporary presence but still perfectly carry that typical Breguet DNA. And that is also where the magic is for me. As I get older and Breguet updates their collection, I see myself drawn more and more towards the brand. The sweet spot of this common ground is, without a doubt, the Marine collection.
So let’s zoom in on the Breguet Marine Alarme Musicale 5547 in red gold. It is the most complicated watch out of the three models that were introduced on precious metal bracelets. The overall styling is inspired by naval influences like the dial, the handset, and the wave-shaped crown guards. They combine perfectly with the brand’s signature fluted case band and central lug. This combination of elements is done in typical Breguet fashion with a great sense of style and sophistication.
Every element, every detail looks very well balanced and is meticulously executed. Even the two sub-dials that differ in size do not feel odd or out of sync. The sub-dial at 3 o’clock shows the alarm time and is more prominent and features the same style hand set as the central dial. The smaller sub-dial at 9 o’clock indicates the second time zone and is more straightforward in its appearance. By cleverly adjusting the design of the sub-dials to suit their size, they both blend in with the beautiful hand-applied wavy pattern of the dial. That pattern turns out to be the perfect backdrop for all the watch’s complications.
The Marine Alarme Musicale has several complications that can be operated through the two crowns on the right side of the case and a pusher on the left side of the case. The crown placed at the 2 o’clock position has four different positions. It allows you to wind the watch, meaning both the time and chiming mechanism, and set both the time and the date. The crown placed at 4 o’clock lets you set the second time zone and the alarm time.
The alarm is activated and deactivated by the pusher at the 7 o’clock position. You can see if the alarm is activated just underneath the logo at 12 o’clock. When the alarm is activated, a little bell appears. And by a click of the pusher at 7 o’clock, it also disappears when deactivated. When the alarm is activated, it will ring every 12 hours. Placed left of the alarm indication is also the alarm power reserve indicator, with indications cleverly placed between the Roman numerals from 9 to 12 o’clock. So the Marine Alarme Musicale features quite a list of complications. But thanks to the smart placement of the sub-dials and indicators and styling of the different elements, everything falls into place naturally.

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Maurice Lacroix’s Aikon collection was inspired by the company’s 1990s era Calypso timepieces that went out of production in the early 2000s.

Compared to the initial quartz-powered Aikon models that began hitting the market in 2016, and which have been selling well for the Saignelégier-based manufacture, the all-new Aikon Automatic is much more refined.

And yes, it does look even more similar to the higher-end Royal Oak than the quartz versions, but before you write this off as a mere knockoff, which I bring up because I’ve already seen numerous discussions that overwhelming do so, I suggest you first consider all the details.

Was the Calypso a Royal Oak knockoff in the 1990s?

Perhaps. But in all fairness, if so, then it begs the same question for the Patek Philippe Nautilus, IWC Ingenieur, Girard-Perregaux Laureato, and Vacheron Constantin Overseas, which all pre-date the Calypso, but not the Royal Oak.

Zenith also recently introduced its modern second-generation Defy, which has an angular metal case that you could also say looks similar.
The Royal Oak is a personal grail of mine and this article means to take no respect away from the stainless steel clad icon, which was created by one of the greatest watch designers of all-time: Gerald Genta. And even if the Aikon does mimic a legend, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

All that said, at the end of the day, the Aikon is approximately 20 times less expensive. Not to mention, you can buy an Aikon Automatic timepiece for less than the price of a single manufacturer overhaul service of a mechanical Royal Oak.
One reason you’re getting an excellent MAURICE LACROIX Aikon Automatic watch for the money is that Maurice Lacroix owns the case making factory which makes cases for other companies as well as their own, allowing them to not only produce the case and integrated bracelet in-house – at considerable savings – but also to greatly control the quality.

The all-stainless steel case and bracelet have a sophisticated look that the brand’s official images don’t convey well. You really have to see it in person to understand just how well it’s been designed, machined, and finished. Generous amounts of satin-brushing mixed with subtle polished elements, such as on the tabs and sides of the fixed bezel, give the Aikon that sparkle without being ostentatious.
On the wrist the MAURICE LACROIX Aikon Automatic watch feels excellent, a nearly perfect size for my 7-7.5″ inch wrist. The diameter is 41 mm and just 10.25 mm thick (the manufacturer website states dimensions as 42 mm x 11 mm). The lug-to-lug measurement is 47 mm which is quite good and the curvature where the case and metal bracelet connect contours to my wrist almost perfectly. Total weight is 173.9 grams which as with any metal bracelet watch is noticeable but I never felt that it was heavy or cumbersome.
Visually, I found this watch to work equally well with short or long sleeves, something a true dress watch or a true sports watch often cannot do. It’s definitely a dual threat.

Everything is machine made, no hand finishing on the case or bracelet, as you would see on a Royal Oak, but that’s to be expected at this price point.
The crown appears to have poked my wrist a bit, as you can see some a temporary visual mark on my hand in some of the photos, but in reality, I never actually felt it doing so. It’s 7 mm in diameter and does not protrude far out at all. Further, I really like the lack of crown guards, which give a nod to the past, and that the crown is of the locking variety is great as I frankly prefer locking the easiest point of entry for water into the case. Water-resistance is 200 meters.

A signed butterfly clasp seamlessly connects the bracelet on the underside of your wrist, a design I’ve never preferred, but it’s basically par for the course with this type of bracelet. Definitely, something that is not typical, although it’s becoming more so these days, is Maurice Lacroix’s proprietary “Easy Change” system which allows you to squeeze the two knobs underneath the watch, where the bracelet and case connect and remove the bracelet, or optional strap, with no tool. As with any adjustments, you still need to be careful and can scratch it if not done with the proper finesse.
Sitting just above the bezel is a flat sapphire crystal which shows some anti-reflective treatment at certain angles. The screwed case back is sapphire as well.
A black sun-brushed Clous de Paris dial punctuated by thin polished faceted rhodium-plated indices and hands creates a really attractive aesthetic. But don’t confuse this for a Royal Oak dial, they are really not that close. For instance, the outer ring and the center portion of the dial are two different pieces, whereas on the aforementioned model it’s all one piece.
The handset is all baton-shaped as are the applied indices, with double stick indices at 12, 3, 6, and 9. At three o’clock the indices are half-way obstructed by the date window, something, as a minimalist I wish they just excluded altogether.

Nighttime viewing, despite only small amounts of white lume being applied to the indices and hour and minute hands, is quite good. Overall legibility, thanks to long hands and indices and a very clean layout, is excellent.
Driving the hours, minutes, central seconds, and date is a fairly basic automatic movement with a not that impressive 38-hour power reserve.

Finishing on what MAURICE LACROIX Aikon Automatic watch calls, caliber ML115 is elaborate grade with perlage, Geneve stripes, and 26 jewels. The movement is manufactured by Sellita so nothing exclusive or exotic, despite Maurice Lacroix having capabilities to produce movements in-house for some of their watches.
This MAURICE LACROIX Aikon Automatic watch is presumably a big seller and could really elevate the company sales, making an in-house caliber a worthwhile consideration down the road. I really think the company branding needs to be elevated as well in order to make it something consumers might pay another thousand dollars for.

That said, the outsourced movement works perfectly fine, albeit for less than two days autonomously but it’s self-winding so if you wear it, in theory, the abbreviated reserve won’t matter that much.
I love the Aikon Automatic’s wrist presence and it looks stunning in either the black or blue dial. Not sure which one I prefer. Avoid the white dial, though, for sure.

The toolless strap changing system is a nice touch that will be beneficial in keeping the watch scratch-free as there is no need to bring a metal tool anywhere near the case or bracelet. And while the leather strap is not something I really consider desirable for this type of watch, if you do you’ll be able to swap between the steel bracelet and the leather strap with ease.
If you’re trying to dress to impress, forget about the brand name and check the Aikon out, you won’t find a better watch of this style for less. I would buy one in a heartbeat, and might actually do that.

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Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345

Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345, it will surprise probably no one to be reminded at this point in the global evolution of wristwatch connoisseurship, was born in Switzerland, but spent most of his working life (except for a brief interregnum when he returned to Switzerland to avoid the Reign of Terror) in France, and specifically in Paris, where his workshops were located at no. 39, Quai d’Horloge. You couldn’t ask for a more central location; the building is on the Île de la Cité, which is not only at the heart of Paris, but also a natural island in the middle of the Seine, which has been occupied since at least the time of Julius Caesar, and on which there has been a palace since the Merovingian Dynasty. The Quai d’Horloge gets its name from an actual horloge, or clock – the Conciergerie Clock, which is on the corner of a building where the Quai d’Horloge forms an intersection with the Boulevard du Palais. The clock was installed in its earliest form in 1371 (it was the first and is the oldest public clock in Paris) and gets its name from the adjacent Conciergerie building, which has served several purposes, including functioning at one point as a prison. Originally, however, it was part of the Palais de la Cité complex – home to the kings of France from the sixth to the 14th century.
If you are receptive to the sentimental clarion call of history and romance, it is quite an experience to go to Paris and walk from the Conciergerie clock, along the Quai d’Horloge, to Number 39 and stand on the same street where Abraham-Louis Breguet once stood, looking at the company’s former home (of course, Breguet is now headquartered in Switzerland, in the Vallée de Joux, but it is very moving to go back to where it all began). There are probably places in Paris too numerous to count where you can have similar experiences – there is hardly a cobblestone in the city that hasn’t a hundred tales to tell and more – but the Quai d’Horloge for both Breguet fans in particular, and students of the history of horology in general, remains a unique and very special place.

It is also the inspiration for Breguet’s latest version of its Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345, which was first introduced as a complication in 2006 and which has been a mainstay of Breguet’s tourbillon offerings ever since.
The Breguet Double tourbillon is an unusual orbital tourbillon, in which the two tourbillon cages are mounted on the movement plate. The entire plate rotates in the watch case once every 12 hours, and the upper tourbillon bridge is blued along half its length, functioning as the hour hand. This is the first open dial version of the watch that I can recall seeing – there are two mainspring barrels located on the movement plate as well, which in other versions of the watch are hidden, but which in this one are covered with an elaborately finished Breguet “B.” Each tourbillon has its own going train, and the two movement gear trains are laid out symmetrically. The output from the two tourbillons is averaged by a differential to produce a single average rate, which determines the speed of rotation of the movement and thus, the degree of movement of the hour and minute hands.
This is, make no mistake, a massive and imposing statement piece intended to spark conversations and elicit admiration while at the same time retaining some of the cosmopolitan grace and elegance that characterized so much of Breguet’s work at its best. Breguet himself is certainly justly famed for the great care and restraint that he showed in both his dial designs and movement layouts – his aesthetic inclinations did not stop at the case but pervade every part of his watches – but he was not averse to celebrating complexity for its own sake either. His most celebrated watch, which is no. 160, the Grand Complication made for Marie Antoinette (but never delivered), is as frank a showpiece as horology has ever seen.
I haven’t had a chance to see or handle one of these in person (and given how low production is apt to be, I am not likely to), but the case is in platinum, and dimensions are 46mm x 16.80mm including the very highly domed box crystal. I am sure it will make its presence known on the wrist with all the joyful assertiveness of an Academy Awards winner on Oscar night, showing up at the Vanity Fair after party.
There is quite a tremendous amount of craft on display on the dial side of this watch and kinetic entertainment aplenty to spare but, when you turn it over, you get quite an unexpected treat. Normally, the back of watches of this sort is a rather dour place, at least in comparison to the miraculously microcosmic experience on offer on the dial side, with a large expanse of movement plate feeling perhaps a bit like a letdown after the upper side’s pyrotechnics. In the Double Tourbillon Quai d’Horloge, however, there is a very charming, not to say impressive, surprise waiting for you.
The Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345 back (which is solid gold) is engraved with a scene straight out of the dawn of the 19th century – it is, in fact, the building at 39 Quai d’Horloge, but as it would have appeared in Breguet’s time. The engraving is extremely detailed, down to the texture of the very bricks and the faint haze hanging, in a climatologically correct fashion, in the sky. According to Breguet, the gold color of the wheels visible through the various cut-outs is meant to give the effect of candlelight at dusk, and well, why not; I can see that. There is even a seated figure looking out of one of the lower windows, which you can find if you are patient and look carefully for a moment or two. You’ll recall that the entire movement rotates but the back plate does not, which means that the visible wheels are ones that do not rotate along with the rest of the movement. Upon consideration, you will realize this means they can only be part of the keyless works for winding and setting, and indeed, this is the case. While I feel that perhaps there is a missed opportunity here to have a little automaton figure of Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345 visible in one of the windows as well (possibly penning a polite but clearly annoyed letter to one of his royal patrons about the amount in which their account is in arrears), the engraving is just as beautiful, and probably more dignified, without it.

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Jaeger Lecoultre Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon Moon

It’s kind of a tough time to be a tourbillon. Complications generally have at least a little bit of an air of let-them-eat-cake about them (okay, probably not the chronograph), but they can often get away with it for different reasons. Chiming complications can plead the undeniable craft which, even today, it still takes to make one; perpetual calendars can argue their connection to the cosmic rhythms of the Earth’s rotation and its annual journey around the Sun; the rattrapante chronograph can play the craft card (at least in its most classic version) and its greater utility than a standard chronograph. But the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Tourbillon Moon ? It’s long since been generally conceded by even its most ardent fans that you don’t need a tourbillon to get a more accurate watch. A lot of folks would argue that, strictly speaking, it’s not even a complication, inasmuch as it doesn’t display any additional information. Which is as good a rough and ready description of a complication as any – though it leaves out a lot of watchmaking which is indisputably complicated to do, including ultra-thin watchmaking.
Still, tourbillons continue to fascinate watch enthusiasts and watchmakers alike – no less a master than Roger Smith has gone on record as saying he’d like to make one – and given the number of tourbillons of all kinds released every year, it’s clear that folks are still very much interested in owning them as well. As with most mechanical watchmaking, how you do it is at least as important nowadays as what it is you do, and a well-made tourbillon is still not only interesting to look at, but also a legitimate demonstration of watchmaking as an art as well as a technical exercise.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Tourbillon Moon is a quite beautiful example of the genre, with some interesting additional technical features which help distinguish it from the rest of the crowd. The full-rotor tourbillon movement is a relative rarity – JLC caliber 983, which looks to be the JLC cal. 973 automatic tourbillon, but with the addition of a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Tourbillon Moon and date indication. The date indicator is a centrally mounted hand, which has a neat little trick up its sleeve (one we’ve seen before from JLC), which is that at midnight on the 15th, it jumps from one side of the aperture for the tourbillon to the other, landing on the marker for the 16th. This is to keep the date hand from partially obscuring the view of the flying tourbillon (and it gives owners a reason to stay up until midnight on the 15th, too). The main moon-phase display shows the Moon as seen from the Northern Hemisphere, but there is also, around the main display, a double-sided hand that shows the moon-phase in the Southern Hemisphere on the left, and the age of the Moon on the right.
This is a complicated tourbillon in a pretty classic idiom. The round, rose-gold case is 41.5mm x 12.10mm. That does not, at first, sound particularly thin these days – not with the number of extremely flat tourbillon movements that have debuted over the last decade or so (and culminating, of course, with the Bulgari Octo-Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic). The case alloy is JLC’s proprietary Le Grand Rose alloy, in which a small amount of palladium is added to help resist corrosion and discoloration. (Rose-gold alloys stabilized with metals from the platinum group have become increasingly popular in the watch industry since the introduction of Everose by Rolex in 2005.)
However, it helps to keep a few points in mind. The calibers 983 and 973 are full-rotor self-winding tourbillons – this is a surprisingly rare sub-genre in the world of automatic tourbillons which have tended, especially as the race to produce extra-flat tourbies heated up, to have either micro-rotor (the Piaget caliber 1270P) or peripheral rotor designs (Bulgari, Breguet). There are other full-rotor tourbillons – most recently from Audemars Piguet in the Code 11.59 collection. AP’s Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon uses the central rotor caliber 2950, and it’s the first time AP has had a central rotor flying tourbillon in its collection – in a watch which, with no complications, comes in at 41mm x 11.80mm.

A full-rotor design is always going to be thicker than a micro-rotor or peripheral rotor design, and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Tourbillon Moon manages to be just 0.30mm thicker than the Code with the addition of the moon-phase display and date. That said, I don’t think this watch is going to necessarily make anyone emit a low whistle of wonder at its slim profile, but considering the fact that the very flattest automatic tourbillons, with peripheral or micro-rotor winding systems, are roughly 5-7mm affairs, a 12.10mm-thick full-rotor complicated tourbillon ain’t too shabby.
You don’t usually think of tourbillons as the toughest category of watches ever to come down the pike, but the caliber 983, despite the lyricism of the dial, hands, and case, looks to be a pretty sturdy piece of kit. The lower bridge for the tourbillon has got all the reassuring solidity of a suspension bridge, and the rotor shares with the movement plate and bridges a general feel of overbuilt reliability not often found – okay, virtually never found – in extra-flat watchmaking.

Whenever a tourbillon comes out we (by which I mean me, I guess) have a reflexive tendency to talk about the fact that tourbillons are not the aid to accuracy today which Breguet intended them to be when he patented his invention back in 1801. But I think that consideration is probably less important in thinking about tourbillons today than appreciating them for what they are – a living fossil (I mean that in a good way) of horological history and one that is still relevant as an exercise in craft. They’re tons of fun to look at, too – I don’t know how many dozens of tourbillons I’ve seen over the last 20 years, but I still get a kick out of them. This one from JLC is not going after any records, nor it is offering anything groundbreaking technically, but it is a very attractive complicated tourbillon wristwatch with enough personality to stand on its own, without needing to stand on a podium to do so.

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LONGINES Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve

Longines, part of the Swatch Group family of brands, has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to reissues of vintage watches. It was Longines, after all, whose Legend Diver — which came out all the way back in 2007! — paved the path for the industry at large to begin digging into its back catalog. And while the cynics among us will argue that this perpetual glance backward has come to preoccupy the horological landscape in the interest of making a quick buck and at the expense of developing new and inventive designs, there’s also no doubt that many of these reissues revive strikingly beautiful timepieces that would otherwise have been relegated to the dusty pages of history.
To wit: the new Longines Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve. Produced in celebration of the Conquest collection’s 70th anniversary this year, it takes an otherwise pedestrian complication — the humble power reserve indicator — and moves it front and center, as it was on the original model from 1959. Every mechanical watch (of the hand-wound or automatic variety) has a power reserve, or the amount of time the watch will continue to function once the mainspring is wound, either manually via the crown or via an automatic-winding rotor. On an automatic watch, we rarely consider the power reserve, as the act of wearing it winds the mainspring. On a hand-wound watch, however, it can be difficult to know how much power is left — which Longines Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve is why the power reserve indicator is so handy.
Generally, this indicator (if present at all) takes the form of a small crescent with hours printed alongside it, sort of like a dashboard gauge — a small hand generally points to the number of operational hours remaining before the watch needs winding. Other systems exist, however, including the interesting layout from the 1950s-era Longines Conquest in which an inner disc rotates within the greater dial, pointing to the appropriate power reserve number printed around its periphery. An elegant, compelling (yet unobtrusive) placement for the power reserve indicator, this design made for a fairly unique product — one made all the more interesting by the framed date window present at 12 o’clock, rather than the more typical 3 o’clock.
It’s this design that Longines Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve has revived in time for the Conquest collection’s 70th anniversary, though there will doubtless be more anniversary releases spread throughout the year. Available in champagne, anthracite, or black dials, Longines decided to upsize the piece from the original’s ~35mm dial — but only to 38mm. Had this watch come out five years ago — and most certainly had it come out 10 or 15 years ago — it would’ve measured an ungainly 42mm, or 40mm at best. But even a mid-priced brand such as Longines, which has to cater to casual watch buyers in department stores as well as to deep enthusiasts, has embraced the industry’s move to expand its smaller-sized offerings. (Which, in 1959, would’ve measured large!)
TL; DR — this is all welcome news. Here we have a watch with a unique take on a common complication, housed in a 38mm case, and available as a standard-production model. Its dial is visually dynamic — as the watch is either hand-wound or wound on the wrist, the central disc rotates, indicating higher power reserve. Alongside the Conquest’s signature, circular track running outside the power reserve indicator, it features uniquely shaped, applied hour markers in yellow gold, rose gold or silver coloring (depending on the dial configuration), plus a trapezoidal enclosure for the 12 o’clock date window, and skyscraper/modified syringe-shaped hands filled with SuperLumiNova. Housed in a stainless steel case with both satin and polished surfaces and topped with a box-shaped, vintage-inspired sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, the watch is heavily informed by its vintage ancestor, though it does make concessions to modernity in the form of its movement.

While the original Longines Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve model from ‘59 was indeed automatic — a relative rarity for all but heavy-duty dive watches (and certain other exceptions) at the time — the new Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve makes use of a movement equipped a longer power reserve (64 hours), a silicon balance spring, and ten times the magnetic resistance of the ISO 764 standard. This new caliber, the Longines L896.5, is visible via sapphire caseback, while the case offers 50m of water resistance.
If you’re like me — someone who loves vintage watches, but also wants to see the industry place more of an emphasis on designing fresh products — the Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve will prove a mixed blessing. But what’s not in doubt is that this is a handsome take on a cool price from the classic era of watch design, and that it looks damn good in each of its three different iterations. If I were in the market for a new dress watch, it would certainly be on my short list.

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jaeger-lecoultre master ultra thin

Jaeger-LeCoultre would like to remind you that it’s not just all about the Reverso in Le Sentier. Case in point, a subtle update to the Master Ultra Thin Power Reserve reminded me how the company that used to be nearly everyone’s go-to movement supplier hasn’t stopped making technical improvements to its great watches.

The new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Power Reserve might not look that different. Cased in 18k pink gold, the blue sunray-finished dial is pretty striking. The case still measures 39mm by 8.95mm thick, but it now has revised proportions, with slightly elongated and slimmer lugs. It’s what’s inside that’s revamped more dramatically. The last iteration of the Caliber 938 movement had 43 hours of power. With only minor changes – a redesigned mainspring barrel and some key components made of silicon – JLC has reduced friction in the movement and now gets 70 hours out of the caliber.

I don’t think Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Power Reserve gets enough attention for their work with ultra-thin watchmaking. Maybe that’s because a dress watch like the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Power Reserve might not be, on its face, the most creatively exciting watch from a design standpoint. It’s not bold or brash, but it sure looks like it could be quite attractive.

I say it could be because I haven’t seen it in person yet. I can’t tell much about the finishing on the movement from these images, but judging by past experience with Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Power Reserve watches, I have a feeling it doesn’t disappoint. Whether or not you like the power-reserve dial, with date, small-seconds, and power reserve kind of creating an interesting off-balance design, is personal taste. But 8.95mm with a 70-hour power reserve is nothing to scoff at – in fact, it’s an impressive upgrade over the past release’s 43 hours.

Unfortunately, right now, the new updated Caliber 938 only seems to come in Pink Gold, not steel, so the price feels a little steep. Compared to something like a Vacheron Traditionelle Self-Winding, however, it’s less than one millimeter thicker, has 30 hours more power reserve, and costs $9,000 less, making it a pretty strong option. Hopefully I’ll get to handle one soon and see how it holds up in the metal.