Andre Jute likes beautiful, practical and amusing watches.
Me, I go Wolfie. Come, Herr Mozart, soothe the savage breast!
After I went Wolfie, John Stewart wrote to me: "Would that be GMT? I observed Algol at a minimum 8 minutes later".
No, John, I live in the wilds of West Cork. We keep Leprechaun Time. If you will observe my Citizen Navihawk below, you will discover that Leprechaun Time, which we reluctantly admit is presently the same as British Summer Time, is one hour behind of GMT or UTC as the politically correct now call it. So, when it is 21:51 in deepest (but very civilized) West Cork, on the narrow line in Greenwich it is 20:51 and in your neck of the woods in Eastern Canada (YUL is the aeronautical callsign for Montreal) it is 16:51.
The Citizen Navihawk is the most accomplished "complications" watch ever sold to the general public. The C300 movement has a grand perpetual date (it even knows the x000 dates are not leap years), time in all the time zones with independent summer time adjustment, three independent alarms which can be set in any time zone, a chronograph with 24hr accumulators, a split laptimer, a countdown timer and, in the best versions, an E6B rotary flight computer on the slide rule bezel. If only it had a moonphase for decoration and a halfhour time zone for my other home in Adelaide in South Australia, it would be perfect. The model that replaced the Navihawk, the Skyhawk, has battery-less EcoDrive but misses several of the refinements of the Navihawk, and has miserably small digital windows: on a watch to be worn by active sportsmen, every number should be readable at a glance, which the Navi manages just, but brilliantly. This one is not the famous Blue Angels version, of which I had two, but the display sample of an intended limited production titanium version for Germany that didn't go into production; those few which reached the market were made with red rather than the yellow highlights shown on mine. This is my everyday watch, worn on a 24mm rubber strap with cutouts to make it fit. I don't believe in "collectors" hoarding rare commodities simply because they are rare. If you own something good, you should use it.
What John means by Algol is not the nerd's triple-confusion computer programming language that cannot make up its mind which version it wants to be, but a star in the constellation Perseus, also known as the Demon Winking Star. Algol is a moderately bright double or (probably) triple star. It is remarkable in that every 68.75 hours its light dims suddenly for several hours before returning equally quickly to its former brightness. The change can be seen with the naked eye. It is worth looking out for. John is making a pun on me going Wolfie at the full moon before it wanes...
If today you buy an expensive Swiss watch with a mechanical movement that the maker whose name is on the face did not make himself, you're very likely getting a direct lineal descendent of the ebauche in this watch, the Eterna 3000. The movement itself is called 1466-U, a significant number in horological history; it also gave the five-ballbearing logo to Eterna, the Swiss firm that still makes movements for almost all the good watchmakers in Switzerland and nearby nations. I received my first one when I graduated from school, and when it was lost (or more likely stolen while on a rugger tour) accepted a new one from a rich girlfriend because it was then the thinnest automatic wristwatch one could buy, despite the claims of Patek Philippe. I've had two more since then, and it is still one of the most elegant watches I can remember seeing. Though I show a tan strap because that's the photograph of the movement I have, most of my Eterna 3000 never wore anything but a black strap, and my current one, worn only with a suit to go to funerals, is back on a black strap. I have fond memories of boardrooms where everyone shot the cuff on Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet or Constantin Vacheron, and then I'd check the time on my "modest" Eterna, and men who knew the difference between merely paying a lot of money for your timepiece, and getting a quality watch, would treat me with that tiny edge more respect that in business usually makes all the difference. While wearing the Eterna, I never failed to walk out of the office of a true watch-lover with the business: it was as good as a sign saying, "No flash, just solid value and good taste. This fellow will look after your money as carefully as he looks after his own." The Patek Philippe, the Audemars Piquet, the Constantin Vacheron, all of which served loyally, the ubiquitous, clunky Rolex they'd give you at the conclusion of every contract when they couldn't think of anything you might actually want, they're all gone, stolen or lost or given away or sold, while the unassuming Eterna remains my alltime favourite timepiece.
One of the most difficult of watch complications to make is the minute repeater. Louis Breguet made a good living out of his secret, and until our time a minute repeater was by far the rarest of timepieces; in fact, it may still be the rarest of the classical modes of timekeeping. I remember an auction for a minute repeater in London many years ago, before I became a writer and thus by definition poor.Against a determined Arab I bid to more than a high court judge was paid in a year before my two assistants (and friends) forcefully clamped my arms either side of me. While I could afford it, it was an obscene amount of money for a watch. The collector's madness was on me. Afterwards I spoke to the Arab, who was exceedingly bitter about being outbid on the phone by some Japanese industrialist when he glanced at me being held down by my assistants, and the auctioneer took his movement for a shake of the head and knocked the watch down to the Japanese; the madness was on him too.
Having given due though to that embarrassing episode, I gave up collecting rare watches, and disposed of my small collection. Forever after I would buy only current watches, and by function, not by rarity. As we see above, I eventually arrived at a point where I daily wear a Citizen pilot's watch simply because it is useful to me to know the time in several places, and to have a slide rule instantly to hand. However, my eyes have never been fabulous, and one was damaged in the accidents of an adventurous youth, so it is possible that some day a minute repeater may be essential. When Citizen, by far the most innovative of all the watchmakers in the world today, brought out a minute repeater at the same price as the more expensive "special" watches in the Eco-Drive range, I bought one.
I had to take the pilot's bracelet shown above to get the reddish "rose gold" colour, but mine is worn on a white-stitched brown leather strap which suits it well.
The Citizen model BL9003-51A, besides the minute repeater, offers a second time zone with day/night indicator (between 4 and 5), grand perpetual date and month (you have to know how to work out the day of the week), and leap year indicator. It is painfully complicated and awkward to set up but manageable if one follows the video without deviation. Without the video it would be impossible as the printed instructions neglect to tell one the most important thing about the watch, which is that it operates three times zones, the third one being the invisible master zone. However, as the watch has a perpetually self-charging Eco-Drive movement, and in the standard Citizen manner keeps time with unshakeable precision, one sets it and resets it until one gets it right, and then never again.
I love the sunburst or shellburst design and the restrained white surround. Despite all the functions, this is not an ostentatious watch, if a bit on the large side. It is, thankfully, not outrageously heavy, weighing about the same as the titanium versions of Citizen's 300C movement pilots' watches (see above).
Doesn't that just sound sinister! I'll let the photographs tell the story.
Last year and this year I had heart surgery, nothing too worrying I thought, just a keyhole job. The first time I was back on my bike within days, the second time a small unforeseen complication escalated and nearly killed me. To celeberate making it out of hospital alive — already an achievement these days! — I bought Roz and me a pair of matched watches. That is, if you understand by "matched" that the movements are the same. But Roz wanted a skeleton with bling, and I fancied the bar-skeleton, but with no more bling than rose gold and a few visible watchmakers "jewels", coloured axles and colour-anodized screws. These are automatic watches; the large striped anchor (see pic below from back of Roz's Pistoia) is the autowinder. On her watch the front of winding weight also has bling, which combines with the movement to catch all the available light. Just as well we live in a low crime area, as it is her favourite watch.
My favourite bicycle is a Utopia Kranich, in British Racing Green with gold coachlines by Meister Kluwer himself. I thought a gold skeleton clock would go well with on it, and indeed it is highly practical on the bike. Here it is in action, without too much time to choose a shot without a reflection. (Olympus 720-D in athletic mode, an excellent camera to handle onehandedly but don't even think of using anything but the wide angle if you're moving.) Below there's a more carefully composed shot of the Schloss Foeren on the bike.
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