Stradivarius

Stradivarius are stringed instruments (such as violins, cellos, guitars and harps) which were built by the members of Stradivari family, especially by Antonio Stradivari. Stradivarius, as well as the colloquial "Strad" are often used to refer to their instruments.


(Antonio Stradivari examining an instrument, in a Romantic 19th-century print)

Antonio Stradivari is believed to have been born in the year 1644, although his exact birth date is not documented. He was born in Italy to Alessandro Stradivari and Anna née Moroni. It is possible that in the years 1667 through 1679 he served as a pupil in workshops of Nicolò Amati, though there is much evidence to dispute this fact.

In 1680 Stradivari settled himself in the Piazza San Domenico, Cremona, and his fame as an instrument-maker was soon established thereafter. His originality began to show through his alterations of Amati's models. The arching was changed, the various degrees of thickness in the wood were more exactly determined, the formation of the scroll was altered, and the varnish was more highly coloured.


(Antonio Stradivari, by Edgar Bundy, 1893: a romanticized image of a craftsman-hero)

It is generally acknowledged that his finest instruments were manufactured from 1698 to 1725 (peaking around 1715), exceeding in quality to those manufactured between 1725 and 1730. After 1730, some of the instruments are signed Sotto la Desciplina d'Antonio Stradivari F. in Cremona and were probably made by his sons, Omobono and Francesco.

Stradivari's instruments are regarded as amongst the finest stringed instruments ever created. They are highly prized and still played by professionals today. Only one other maker, Joseph Guarneri del Gesù, commanded the same respect among violinists. Fashions in music, as in other things, have changed over the centuries, and the accepted supremacy of Stradivari's and del Gesù's instruments is only true today. In the past, instruments by Nicolò Amati and Jacob Stainer were preferred for their subtle sweetness of tone.


(Smithsonian's collection of musical instruments in the National museum of American History)

A Stradivarius made in the 1680s or during Stradivari's Brescian period form 1690-1700, could be worth several hundred thousand dollars or more at today's prices in auction. If made during Stradivari's "golden period" from 1700 to 1720, depending on condition, the instrument can be worth several million. They rarely come up for sale and the highest price paid for a Stradivarius (or any musical instrument) at public auction was the Hammer, made in 1707, which sold for US$3,544,000 on May 16, 2006.

Seiko

The company started in 1881, when Kintaro Hattori opened a watch and jewellery shop called "K. Hattori" (服部時計店, Hattori Tokeiten?) in the Ginza area of Tokyo, Japan. Eleven years later he began to produce clocks under the name Seikosha (精工舎, Seikōsha?). According to Seiko's official company history, titled "A Journey In Time: The Remarkable Story of Seiko" (2003), Seiko is a Japanese word meaning "exquisite", "minute", or "success". (The meaning "exquisite" is usually written 精巧 while the meaning "success" is usually written 成功.)

The very first watch produced under the Seiko brand was appeared in 1924.

http://www.whatsoever.hk/watch/Grand%20Seiko.jpg
(Grand Seiko 9S54A Limited Edition, 2001 @ 399,000 Yen+)

Prior to 1960, most people believed Swiss watches were the highest in quality and Japanese watches were inferior. Seiko believed they were capable of producing watches in the same quality as the Swiss. Grand Seiko was introduced.

http://www.whatsoever.hk/watch/Grand%20Seiko%20(Back).jpg
(Grand Seiko 9S54A Limited Edition, 2001)

In 1969, the world's first production quartz watch, the Seiko "Astron" was given birth.

http://www.whatsoever.hk/watch/Grand%20Seiko%20Large%20(Back).jpg
(Grand Seiko 9S54A Limited Edition, 2001)

Recognized as a leader in timekeeping accuracy, Seiko products are often used as the official timekeepers of the major sporting events including the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup editions in Argentina 1978, Spain 1982, Mexico 1986 and Italy 1990.
http://www.seiko-watch.co.jp
Officine Panerai





Giovanni Panerai (1825-1897), founder of the family business, opens the first watchmaker's shop in Florence on the Ponte alle Grazie and establishes contact with the most prestigious and longest established Swiss watch manufacturers in 1850.

In 1890, Guido Panerai (1873-1934), grandson of the founder, expands his grandfather's business and gives it new impetus, specializing in high precision mechanisms and becoming official supplier to the Royal Italian Navy.


(Panerai Luminor 1950 Flyback)

In 1910, the first experiments with luminous materials began and a system was developed to make instrument dials and sighting and telescopic devices "luminous". Inserted into tiny glass tubes to increase its resistance over time, the luminescence was achieved by using a mix of zinc sulphide and radium bromide and later given the name Radiomir.

This mix was the subject of patent applications by Guido Panerai in Italy and other countries.


(Luminor 1950 Flyback Regatta 2006 (June) @ 7,600€, strictly limited to 500 units)

In 1949, the patent was granted for Luminor, another luminous substance which was based on tritium, and replaced the previous Radiomir mix which was developed between 1910 and 1915.

The Radiomir and Luminor watches are simply taken their names from these two luminous substances.

http://www.panerai.com

Corum



Corum, a Swiss watch manufacturer which ranks amongst the most prestigious in the world. Founded in 1955 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, the Corum brand acheived prominence because of its simple philosophy--"superb craftsmanship combines with the endless search for beauty and innovation." This initial commitment to excellence still prevails today.

Gucci Group



Since the purchase of a controlling stake by PPR in 1999 , Gucci Group has been radically transformed. Ranked the third in the luxury world, the Group boasts ten of the most prestigious labels.

Through Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Sergio Rossi, Boucheron, YSL Beaute, Bottega Veneta, Bedat & Co., Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga brands, the Group designs, produces and distributes high-quality personal luxury goods, including ready-to-wear, handbags, luggage, small leather goods, shoes, timepieces, jewelry, ties and scarves, eyewear, perfume, cosmetics and skincare products.
http://www.guccigroup.com/

Jaeger-LeCoultre

Born in the Swiss Jura Mountains in 1833, Jacques LeCoultre was a leading supplier of watch parts and movements to many of the biggest Swiss Watchmakers such as Vacheron, Audemars, IWC, and Patek.

When LeCoultre joined forces with Edmund Jaeger, the company went a whole new direction. They introduced their own line of watches – manufactured completely in-house. And to this day, Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the few companies in Switzerland that still produces its own movements, cases, dials, hands, and bracelets. Virtually every single component in a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch is hand-finished, produced in-house.


(Reverso, 1931)

Among the company's special features:
  • In 1844, Antoine LeCoultre invented the millionometer, allowing measurements to the nearest micron. In 1847, he invented the first crown winding system, eliminating the need for a winding key.
  • The world's thinnest pocket watch movement, at a mere 1.38 mm, was invented by the company in 1903 and still holds the record.
  • The company's featured item is the Reverso, a wristwatch that has a swivel case. It was first introduced in 1931. Future versions of this design would feature the time of one time zone on one side and time in another zone on the reverse.
  • In 1953, the first automatic alarm wristwatch was invented by LeCoultre.

The most noted and distinguishable model for Jaeger LeCoultre is the 'Reverso'. Furthermore, Jaeger recently came out with their 'Master Control' series. These round watches come in a variety of complications. Their size is large compared to the rest of the line, so it really appeals to gentleman looking for something between a Patek and a Breitling. For women, Jaeger has many different Reverse's with numerous diamond combinations.

Jaeger is in the same league on a re-sale basis as AP, Vacheron, and IWC.
http://www.jaeger-lecoultre.com

Compagnie Financière Richemont SA

Richemont was created in 1988 by the spin-off of international assets owned by Rembrandt Group Limited of South Africa (now known as Remgro Limited). Established by Dr. Anton Rupert in the 1940s, Rembrandt Group owned significant interests in the tobacco, financial services, wines and spirits, gold and diamond mining industries as well as the luxury goods investments that, along with the investment in Rothmans International, would form Richemont.

Richemont owns a portfolio of leading international 'Maisons', which are managed independently of one another. The businesses operate in five areas:

1/ Jewellery Maisons - Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels;

2/ Specialist Watchmakers - Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, IWC, Baume et Mercier, Vacheron Constantin, Officine Panerai, Roger Dubuis and A. Lange & Söhne;

3/ Writing Instrument Maisons - Montblanc and Montegrappa;

4/ Leather and Accessories Maisons - Alfred Dunhill and Lancel; and

5/ Other Businesses - Alaia, Chloé, Shanghai Tang, and Purdey.

[Richemont.png]

In addition to its luxury goods business, Richemont holds an 18.9 per cent interest in British American Tobacco, one of the world’s leading tobacco groups.
http://www.richemont.com


The Swatch Group Ltd. is a Swiss company and the biggest watch manufacturer in the world (about 25% of the sales). It owns some of the most famous and fine brands of watch of the history of watchmaking.

Its brands include Breguet, Blancpain, Jaquet Droz, Glashütte Original, Union Glashütte, Léon Hatot, Omega SA, Rado, Longines, Swatch, Tissot, Calvin Klein, Certina, Mido, Pierre Bal-main, Hamilton, Flik Flak and Endura.

It was formed in 1983 through the merging of the two Swiss watch manufacturers ASUAG and SSIH, and took its present name in 1998 (formerly SMH Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd).

In 2003, gross sales were 3.983 billion CHF. The Swatch groups employs 20,000 collaborators.
http://www.swatchgroup.com

Quartz Movements

Essentially, all modern electronic movements use the piezoelectric effect in a tiny quartz crystal to provide a stable time base for a mostly electronic movement: the crystal forms a quartz oscillator which resonates at a specific and highly stable frequency, and which can be used to accurately pace a timekeeping mechanism. For this reason, electronic watches are often called quartz watches. Most quartz movements are primarily electronic but are geared to drive mechanical hands on the face of the watch in order to provide a traditional analog display of the time, which is still preferred by most consumers.


(Sportura Kinetic Chronograph at USD 268)

The first prototypes of electronic quartz watches were made by the CEH research laboratory in Switzerland in 1962. The first quartz watch to enter production was the Seiko 35 SQ Astron, which appeared in 1969. Modern quartz movements are produced in very large quantities, and even the cheapest wristwatches typically have quartz movements.


(Sportura Kinetic Chronograph)

The best quartz movements are significantly more accurate than the worst, but the difference is much smaller than that found between mechanical movements and quartz movements. Quartz movements, even in their most inexpensive forms, are an order of magnitude more accurate than purely mechanical movements. Whereas mechanical movements can typically be off by several seconds a day, an inexpensive quartz movement in a child's wristwatch may still be accurate to within 500 milliseconds per day—ten times better than a mechanical movement.

Quartz mechanisms usually have a resonant frequency of 32768 Hz, chosen for ease of use (being 215). Using a simple 15 stage divide-by-two circuit, this is turned into a 1 pulse per second signal responsible for the watch's keeping of time.

Patek Philippe


("Patek Philippe Geneve" Catalog - Front Cover. Estimated Age - 1990's)

On May 1st, 1839 two Polish immigrants, Antoine Norbert de Patek (Salesman) and François Czapek (Watchmaker) joined forces to found
« Patek, Czapek & Cie ».

In 1844 Mr. Patek met the French watchmaker, Mr. Adrien Philippe in Paris where the latter presented his pioneering stem winding and setting system by the crown. In 1845 when Czapek decided to leave the company and to continue his activity on his own, the company name changed for
« Patek & Cie ».

Later on, in 1851 when Mr. Philippe became officially associated the company was rebaptised « Patek Philippe & Cie », before changing once more in 1901 for
« Ancienne Manufacture d’Horlogerie Patek Philippe & Cie, S.A. ».


(Caliber 5000, Rose Gold)

In 1932, the company was purchased by Charles and Jean Stern, two brothers and since then, « Patek Philippe S.A. » remains a family owned firm, with 3rd and 4th generation at its head : Mr. Philippe Stern, President and Mr. Thierry Stern, his son, Vice-President.


(Calibre 89)

Patek is the creator of the most complicated mechanical watch ever made, the Calibre 89, created for the 150th anniversary of the company in 1989. It holds 33 complications, including the date of Easter, a thermometer, time of sunrise, equation of time, sidereal time, and many other indicators. The Calibre 89 is also able to add a day to February for leap years while leaving out the extra day for every 100 year interval.
http://www.patek.com

Vacheron Constantin

The world's oldest continuing watchmaker, Vacheron Constantin, also has the singular honor of having produced the single most expensive watch of all time -- the "Kallista" (Greek for "the most wonderful") -- which is set with over 130 carats of emerald cut diamonds, each with its own GIA certificate. The Kallista's original selling price was over $5 million, and today, its value is estimated at over twice that figure should the watch ever be offered at auction.



When a "cabinotier" by the name of Jean-Marc Vacheron established his own company in 1755, little did he know that his decision marked the start of centuries of craft and industrial excellence, the present document reflecting only the latest chapter in an ongoing success story. As the business developed, Jean-Marc Vacheron's heirs had the foresight to bring in a number of able partners and personalities whose character and special talents often proved invaluable. In 1819, for instance, François Constantin joined the company. Enterprising, tireless and always on the move, he crisscrossed Europe for decades, opening new markets and consolidating existing ones, acquiring new customers for the tasteful and ingenious timepieces made in the Geneva workshops of a company that now called itself Vacheron et Constantin.


(Steel 1940s, Vacheron Constantin Chronograph with tear drop lugs)

In 1839, Vacheron Constantin was fortunate enough to hire Georges-Auguste Leschot, a mechanical genius whose inventiveness and practical turn of mind served the company well. He was to go down in the history of industrial development as the first to build viable, practical equipment capable of mechanically producing watch parts and components. His work soon revolutionized industry's manufacturing processes and, in short order, even the sale of watches.


(Made in 1952, it is a magnificent and very rare 18K gold, astronomical, keyless, minute repeating dress watch with perpetual calendar, phases and ages of the moon, split seconds chronograph and progressive 30 minutes register , Ref. 6526 . Vacheron Constantin produced only six examples of this reference numbered 511622 to 511627 this watch being No. 511622. The dial, case and movement are signed. Estimate: SFr 120,000 - 160,000.)

Throughout the 19th century, Vacheron Constantin continued to develop its horological expertise, turning out invariably attractive designs earmarked for a growing number of increasingly distant markets. The period also enabled Vacheron Constantin to forge the principles of product integrity and quality that it has honoured to this day, in keeping with François Constantin's motto: "Do better if possible - and that's always possible". As the century unfolded, the company's production continued to grow, following two basic directions.





http://www.vacheron-constantin.com
Horology is the study of the science and art of timekeeping devices. Clocks, watches, and marine chronometers are examples of instruments used to measure time. The name of the study is derived from the Latin word hora, meaning "hour" but can be taken to mean "time" or season.


(Westminster Palace - The Clock Tower and Great Clock; Source: The Illustrated London News, August 2, 1856)

The leading scholarly horological organisations for non-professionals are:
  1. Antiquarian Horological Society - AHS (United Kingdom)

  2. Association Française des Amateurs d'Horlogerie Ancienne - AFAHA (France)

  3. British Horological Institute - BHI (United Kingdom)

  4. Chronometrophilia (Switzerland)

  5. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Chronometrie - DGC (Germany)

  6. HORA Associazione Italiana Cultori di Orologeria Antica (Italy)

  7. National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors - NAWCC (United States of America)
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