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WorldTempus Newsletter
Editorial - Fun times and milestones ancient and modern

Editorial Fun times and milestones ancient and modern

This week we have light-hearted watchmaking and crazy collectors on WorldTempus. Plus a look at the upcoming auctions and some intriguing new records.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but the sudden jump in Swiss watch exports announced last week certainly made for reassuring reading. Given the magnitude of the increase, and the fact that it comes for the month of March, long before any orders from Baselworld are taken into account, we will need another few months to confirm whether this will provide a genuine fillip to the industry.

Just over a month ago, before this positive news, the mood at Baselworld was generally muted. One brand, however, went out of its way to put some fun back into the world of watches. That brand was Corum, which is enjoying its own resurgence under the leadership of Davide Traxler. Find out what all the fun is about, with some naked statistics thrown in for good measure, in my overview of the brand’s collection and strategy.

Earlier this year, thanks to a mutual acquaintance, I had the chance to interview an extraordinary watch collector. Japanese businessman, poet, painter, opera singer, author, professor and philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa (aka Toshu Fukami) is the manager of the Misuzu Corporation, a watch distributor and retailer in Japan. He has only become interested in high-end watches over the past year, but has spent in excess of 20 million Swiss francs on an eclectic range of timepieces over that period. He’s not your average collector and he also has an ulterior motive. Find out what it is on Wednesday.

Mother’s Day is always a tricky subject to cover in watchmaking. In the United Kingdom it is the fourth Sunday in Lent (which was Sunday 26th March this year), while in Arab countries it is celebrated on the Spring equinox (21st March). Most watch brands, however, target their communication around the European and US Mother’s Day, which is this coming Sunday. Our selection of appropriate watches will be presented by Camille Gendre on Wednesday, to give you chance for some last-minute gift buying.

This weekend also sees the spring watch auctions in Geneva. Sotheby’s undoubtedly has the star lot, offering a Patek Philippe Calibre 89 pocket watch. When it was produced in 1989 to celebrate the brand’s 150th anniversary, only one watch was made in each precious metal, starting with yellow gold. It is this first model that Sotheby’s is offering, with an estimate of USD 6.5-10 million. Phillips is also holding its Auction Five in Geneva this weekend, with highlights from Patek Philippe and Rolex. Will we see more records fall ?

Speaking of records, there may be a couple you might have missed, since neither are directly associated with an existing brand. On the one hand, the Swatch Group’s subsidiary Micro Crystal revealed a triple record-breaking Real Time Clock. It is simultaneously the most accurate (+/-0.26 seconds per day), the most energy efficient (240 nanoamperes consumption, or five years running time on a small button battery) and the smallest (3.2 x 1.5 x 0.8mm).

Even more impressive is the fact that a clock designed over 250 years ago by John Harrison, who claimed it would be accurate to within a second over a 100-day period, set a new world record last week. At the time, people scoffed at this idea from the man who had revolutionised the calculation of longitude at sea with his marine chronometers. Yet 250 years after it was first conceived, “Clock B” was declared by Guinness World Records to be the world’s “most accurate mechanical clock with a pendulum swinging in free air.”  It lost just 5/8ths of a second over the 100-day trial. Not bad for a design that is as old as GMT itself.