“We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.“
John Henry Hopkins, Jr. in the Christmas Carol “We Three Kings”, 1857
In an attempt to adapt the old carol, We Three Kings to symbolise my Christmas Wishlist, may I offer the following for your consideration.
The Rationale of making these Wishlists
This is the final episode of our Christmas Wishlist for 2016. We began this journey as a twofold exercise.
First to make some suggestions on possible Christmas gifts.
And second, but perhaps more importantly, to encourage our readers to embark on creating these lists for themselves. Making a list helps to crystallise one’s thoughts and forces one to ponder over the rationale for the choices. We found that in doing this exercise, it has helped us refine our tastes, clarify our vision and focus our targets for acquisition for the following year.
Here are my four. Yes, only 4, in the spirit of the Three Kings, based on three catagories: Gold, Frankinsence and Myrrh. These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E. The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6).
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
Gold is a precious metal and as such was a very valuable commodity. And in our reference here it is the gold standard by which we measure all else. And in the watchmaking industry, the two names most easily associated to a gold standard are Rolex and Patek Philippe.
Rolex Air King
The first pick is the Rolex Air King to start off the list.
At first, it may sound lame to pick this watch because its name has King on it. But in consideration, this entry level sports model from Rolex is one which hides within the very same internal magnetic shield as the much more expensive Rolex Milgauss.
Others may criticise that the dial is too busy, and the 5 minute markers are too large. But the aesthetics are fine with us, and the prominent markers are useful for its intended use in navigational time readings. Legibility of the dial and hands are unquestioned. And we rather like the Rolex crown logo in yellow (gold) and the green accents for the ROLEX logo and the sweep center seconds hands.
It carries the C.3131, which is certified Rolex Superlative Chronometer, regulated to +2/-2 seconds a day, an industry standard. It also carries the industry standard Rolex 5 year warranty. And although the case is in stainless steel, it is the gold standard indeed for sports and tool watches. Priced at S$ 8,230 inclusive of GST, it is moderately affordable.
Patek Phillippe Nautilus 5711/1P
The next pick is also one which might be a bit controversial. The new Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1P Anniversary Edition has received criticism from may for the mis-use of large Anniversary texts on the dial. But truth be told, as we discovered in our hands-on with the watch, the wordings recede into the background and do not interfere with the aesthetics as much as the press photographs seem to suggest.
The lineage of the Nautilus is undeniable. From its beginnings in 1976, designed for Patek by Gerald Genta, it has indeed stood the test of time. Genta, who in 1972 had designed the runaway success of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, had often remarked that the Nautilus represented a progression from the Royal Oak. “He wanted it to be more anatomical than the Royal Oak,” his widow Evelyn Genta remarks. “He felt the Royal Oak was only sporty – although people wear them with dinner jackets. By contrast, he felt the Nautilus was sporty but it could be worn all day.” (excerpt taken from the Patek Philippe Magazine Vol IV No 2 article by Nick Foulkes).
We love it because the watch, as a package remains quite discrete. Would we have preferred if Patek had migrated the Anniversary markings to the rotor instead of the dial? Probably, but much less than we did before we saw the watch in person. Even the diamond markers do not mar the aesthetics. They are not quite noticeable and a symbol of nobility. As a limited edition offered at S$ 149,300 inclusive of GST, it is an expensive watch, but one which is reasonable value. Read our detailed hands-on review for more on the Patek 5711/1P.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshiping God on high.
Frankincense is a white resin or gum. It is obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark and allowing the gum to flow out. It is highly fragrant and used in perfume. Representing this fresh fragrance and a symbol of priesthood in the early days, my pick is from A. Lange & Söhne and the Grande Dame of Vacheron Constantin.
Lange Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is not a new watch as it was unveiled in 2015, but deliveries have only begun in 2016. This is a remarkable continuation of the Zeitwerk saga. A chapter which Lange started in 2009 with the Zeitwerk, creating and making a new design language for A. Lange & Söhne. The series continued its development as the so called Phantom, then the addition of the experiment of a striking works in the Striking Time. As a test for the work on the striking works, the Striking Time is not tentative at all. By all counts, it is a great success, and won many fans, including our Frank Chuo. But the crowning glory is the Minute Repeater.
Designed to strike as many times as one would read on the dial, the minute repeater is decimal instead of the traditional quarters/minutes. The sound is perhaps not the loudest, that title, by our ears goes to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie. Nor the most harmonious, an honour our ears award to the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra Thin Minute Repeater. But one which the folks at Glashütte have managed to find a nice balance between tradition and modernity. Between acoustic volume and harmonic qualities. And between beauty and the complication that is the minute repeater. Our full hands-on detailed review of the Lange Zeitwerk Minute Repeater click here, tells all. Priced at € 440,000 before taxes, it is not inexpensive by any measure. But as a Dream Watch, it certainly is as good a target as any.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph
And my fourth and final pick is the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph in steel and with the amazing blue dial. This was a watch many years in the making. The original Overseas, derived from the Jorg Hysek designed VC 222 never quite tugged the heart strings.
But the latest, released in SIHH 2016 makes a compelling case for falling in love. We journeyed with the VC team to Kyoto and Tokyo to experience the Overseas collection, and came away extremely impressed. Not only with the competence and professional of the VC team, but also with the magnificence of the new Overseas Collection.
The transplanted C.5200 heart, now in-house instead of the Lemania sourced ebauche of the old Overseas Chronograph is the only the beginning of the difference. VC is the last of the grande dames to offer their own in-house chronograph movement. And the C.5200 is a nice offering for an automatic chronograph with a vertical clutch column wheel operations.
In the aesthetics department, the Overseas has evolved, keeping key design elements critical to the DNA, but at the same time updating and refreshing the look. The lacquered blue dial is a case in point. It has a sense of depth. A melange of hues centered on the blue central theme, which makes it absolutely mesmerising.
And we must not forget the remarkably easy to use strap/bracelet interchange feature, where the stainless steel versions are all delivered with a steel bracelet which can be easily user interchanged with a crocodile strap and a rubber strap. Three watches in one! Priced at S$ 44,500 inclusive of GST, it seems to be a very good value.
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
Myrrh has a pleasing aroma, and it had many uses in as incense or perfume. Myrrh is most frequently associated with suffering and death. And here I do not pick a watch. But as we enter the season of Advent beginning today (27 November 2016), I want to take a moment to reflect on the throes of the industry. It certainly has been a tough year. Our Special Correspondent, Dr. Frank Müller will bring us the State of the Industry Assessment tomorrow, be sure to check back to read that insightful article.
And also Myrrh symbolises the internal strive and politics within the industry. Among the brands. Among the brands and media. Among the players in the blogosphere. “Guys and Gals, this is only about watches, not the future of the universe.” May I humbly offer an offering of peace and harmony.
In conclusion, and looking at the picks, and the lessons learnt as I went about to make these picks, it would seem that in my advanced years (your author has been collecting watches for more than 25 years, and been fascinated with mechanical watches for as long as he can remember), I have mellowed down to pieces which seem to be sporty and tool biased. Other than the Lange, all the others are indeed sports models, with significant water resistance depth ratings. I might have chosen the Dufour Simplicity as a representation, but the Simplicity has been in my personal collection since 2001, so will not qualify to be in a wish list.
But more than that, perhaps the offering of Myrrh is the most significant. And we leave you too to ponder and consider that for a moment.
Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Rings through the earth and skies.