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Review: The Chronograph Reimagined – The Singer Track 1 Geneva Edition

by Frank Chuo on December 13, 2018

Singer Track 1 Geneva Edition

Singer Reimagined – the company behind the watch in review – was born from the encounter between Rob Dickinson, founder and creative Director of Singer Vehicle Design, and Italian watch designer Marco Borraccino who had previously worked with Panerai. The goal of the company was to do what Singer Vehicle Design had done for the past decade (almost), but on watches: to “reimagine” high-end watchmaking by combining the best of vintage design with the best of contemporary mechanics. This vision turned reality when master watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht of Agenhor joined the fray. Together, they created a masterpiece that sent ripples through history: the Track 1.

The Track 1, crafted in titanium and introduced in 2017, soon led to the Track 1 Geneva Edition. The SIHH 2018 novelty uses the same movement as the original but features some bold aesthetic tweaks. If you thought the good looks of the Track 1 couldn’t be improved upon, think again. If we may, the Track 1 Geneva Edition is perhaps truer to the mission of Singer Reimagined than its older brother was, and this mostly has to do with the metal it is constructed in. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the Singer Track 1 Geneva Edition.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The design and dimensions of the case remains unchanged relative to the original Track 1. Reminiscent of the Omega Speedmaster Mark II, it is aptly and sensually barrel-shaped. Its ergonomic build is emphasised by alternate sunray brushed (body of the case) and polished finishes (bezel, pushers, bevels). The chronograph pushers are located on either side of the case in a ‘bullhead’ layout – another nod to the past – for enhanced operation (start and stop with the index finger, reset with the thumb). The crown is placed at the 4 o’clock position and partially recessed for the wearer’s comfort. At 43 mm x 15 mm, the watch wears fairly large, as a sports watch should.

The first point of divergence between the seminal Track 1 and the Track 1 Geneva Edition is in case material. In the original, lightweight titanium was used while in the Geneva Edition, a special alloy of yellow gold is in play. Why special? Because of its unorthodox light shade. Brands typically use 3N yellow gold in watches, resulting in the bright yellow tone that we have grown accustomed to. The Track 1 Geneva Edition is showcased in a rare light yellow shade – 1N. Indeed, this is another tribute to watches from the golden age, namely the ’70s. But while these watches were mostly in 14K gold, the Track 1 Geneva Edition is crafted in purer 18K gold.

Resembling the head of a bull, the start/stop and reset pushers are located on either side of the case.

Where the watch starts to become ‘re-imagined’ is on the dial. While in almost all cases, a ‘chronograph’ is a watch with stopwatch functionality, with the Track 1, the inverse is true: it is a stopwatch with time-telling functionality. The dial features a novel layout with a unique large central chronograph counter. This allows for a radical focus on functionality. The time-telling displays are relegated to the periphery, not quite as an after-thought, but as if time-telling was the complication.

The chronograph displays of the dial begin from the centre of the dial to where the gold tachymetre ring is. Indicating elapsed time on the chronograph are three striking orange hands: one for the hours (60 hours), one for the minutes (60 minutes), and one for the seconds (60 seconds). While the seconds hand sweeps, the hour and minute hands jump instantaneously to the next gradation as time elapses so that there can be no doubt in readings. Beyond the tachymetre ring are the time-telling displays consisting of two rotating rings – one for the minutes, one for the hours. Indicating the time is an orange marker at 6 o’clock.

The aesthetics of the dial is drop-dead gorgeous, especially if you’re a huge fan of vintage. The luxurious combination of black and gold is as old as history itself and works exceedingly well in the Track 1. It plays fantastically into the vintage vibe that the watch is going for. The use of black and gold also serves the practical purpose of legibility. A white dial could have been used instead, but legibility would be compromised especially with the lighter shade of gold involved. And let’s be honest, people don’t get nearly as excited by a white-gold colour combo.

On the Track 1 Geneva Edition, the chronograph functions take centre stage indicated by signal orange hands.

Overall, from a design perspective, the Track 1 Geneva Edition is as close to perfection as it gets. While the Launch Edition is great, to us, the Geneva Edition is the greatest yet. And this relates to the vision and mission of Singer Reimagined, which is again, to marry peak vintage design with peak mechanics. You see, in the original Track 1, the case material of choice was titanium. While a ‘sportier’ metal compared to gold thanks to its strength and lightweightedness, titanium is hardly vintage and virtually non-existent in watchmaking back in the ’60s and ’70s. Yellow gold, on the other hand, was the precious metal of choice then (nowadays, it’s rose gold, white gold, or platinum), and the 1N shade of gold used in the Track 1 Geneva Edition further adds to the authenticity. But the best thing about the Track 1 in general is that it doesn’t just outright copy the past. The completely centralised indication of the chronograph functions is rarely seen in the industry – it never really was a thing until last year (this, in part, has to do with mechanics). No more squinting to read chronograph sub-counters or getting confused with which sub-dial to read off of. Oh and yes, the orange hands – sublime. Adds just the right amount of flair to the timepiece.

The Movement

Powering the Singer Track 1 is the paradigm-shifting Calibre 6361, more commonly known as the AgenGraphe. The 67-jewel, 477-part movement has a minimum power reserve of 60 hours and operates at a traditional 3 Hz beat rate. The result of ten years of development, it is significantly different from any chronograph movement that have come before it, altering fundamentals that had remained unchanged for decades. Perhaps the most critical invention residing within the AgenGraphe is the patented AgenClutch.

Conventionally, there are two types of clutches where chronograph design is concerned: the horizontal, and the vertical. The horizontal clutch is the traditional way to go; it takes up less space but introduces stutter to the chronograph seconds hand when starting, is more susceptible to additional wear with use, and is less accurate in timing. The numerous drawbacks are somewhat balanced by visual appeal; the view of a horizontal clutch chronograph through a case back is oftentimes picturesque. It is worth noting that high-end brands do mitigate the aforementioned drawbacks of the horizontal clutch to a significant extent through the miracles of engineering. The paragon of horizontal clutch chronographs is none other than the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph, known for its sprawling chronograph works and for starting the in-house chronograph arms race. The vertical clutch on the other hand is more modern, is anything but picturesque, ensures that the chronograph starts smoothly, and is more precise. Continuous usage of a vertical clutch chronograph also does not introduce additional wear and tear. Prominent examples include the Rolex Daytona and the Patek Philippe Ref. 5980.

This brings us back to the AgenClutch, which is neither a horizontal nor a vertical clutch – it is both. Best described as a hybrid, the AgenClutch brings the best of both worlds and eliminates drawbacks associated with either. While it is horizontally coupled, the AgenClutch engages like a vertical clutch – via two toothless wheels – through friction, thus ensuring smooth operation. The toothless wheels are also coated with “Dianip”, a composite of diamond dust and nickel, to prevent slipping. To blunt the effects of shock, a tulip-shaped spring allow the wheels to move apart but remain in alignment. Thanks to being horizontally coupled, less space is consumed and the view of the case back is no less stunning.

The Calibre 6361, christened the AgenGraphe, as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.

Now, it bears mentioning that the AgenGraphe is in actuality an automatic winding movement. The question that usually follows after such a revelation is: where’s the rotor? Fully appreciating the fact that obscuring a gorgeous chronograph movement with a rotor is the horological equivalent of a crime punishable by guillotine, the wise men at Agenhor designed the rotor to be on the dial-side of the movement, hidden from sight. In a traditional chronograph, this would be impossible because the pivots of the chronograph sub-counters would be in the way. But because in the AgenGraphe, all the hands are on a central axis, the rotor (full central) can fulfill its function unimpeded.

To display all chronograph indications centrally, the chronograph assembly relies on co-axially stacked cams, one for the seconds and one for the minutes. Only the seconds cam is driven, and after a complete rotation (60 seconds), the minute wheel is triggered to jump forward by one tooth, marking one minute. The same thing happens to the minute cam (60 minutes), causing the hour wheel to jump forward by one tooth, marking one hour. When the chronograph is stopped, a braking system holds the chronograph wheels in place. When it is reset, the brakes are simply released, allowing the cam to revert to its zero position gently. This addresses the issue of the typically more violent reset of legacy chronographs, reducing mechanical wear.

477 intricate parts, all painstakingly finished.

The visual impact of the layout of the chronograph works hits hard; in other words, it is breathtaking. A microcosm of levers, wheels and springs, the AgenGraphe is visible through a sapphire crystal case back, and surprise surprise, there is no winding rotor to be seen and hardly a bridge obstructing the view. The finishing standard applied to the components is high; clearly visible are polished chamfers and screw heads, Geneva striping, straight and circular graining, and numerous outward angles. It might not be the greatest finishing you’ve seen but the movement is objectively attractive, something you’d expect from a high-end manufacture.

The Competitive Landscape

Presented with a handmade khaki leather strap with screw down rivets and a folding buckle, the Singer Track 1 Geneva Edition is priced at a premium but justifiable CHF72,000. This is, after all, a game-changing product within the realm of mechanical watchmaking – any horizontal/vertical clutch chronograph will henceforth be deemed obsolete. Compared to the other variants of the Track 1, the Geneva Edition is the priciest, followed by the newest Hong Kong Edition in ceramic aluminium at CHF44,500, and the Launch Edition at CHF39,800. Indeed, the Launch Edition represents the best value for money. One has to wonder whether an “upgrade” to a gold case – the Geneva Edition – is actually worth an extra CHF32,000. That will be something for potential patrons to mull over.

The watch market is swamped with chronographs, but just because a watch is a chronograph, it doesn’t make it a good one. This is why high-end chronographs, with their immaculate craftsmanship, are still prized by connoisseurs. The Singer Track 1, however, is in a league of its own, for there are literally no chronographs like it from a mechanical perspective. That said, there are a handful of chronographs that may be bound by the old rules, but are worthy of recognition for their mechanical exception.

The Track 1 Launch Edition offers tremendous value at under CHF40,000.

One fine example would be the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Triple Split, a fellow SIHH 2018 debutant. More than “just” a chronograph, more than a rattrapante, the Triple Split is the first and only split-seconds chronograph in the world that can measure additive and comparative times for as long as twelve hours on its own. In other words, the Triple Split is capable of splitting seconds (60 seconds), minutes (30 minutes), and hours (12 hours). It measures and wears slightly bigger than the Track 1, partly due to the complexity of its movement. A sight to behold, the chronograph works span not just far and wide but also possesses awe-inspiring depth. Finishing work performed on its components is also second to none, and a league above the Singer Track 1. At a price of EUR139,000, the Triple Split may be out of reach to most but by ultra-high end watch market standards, it is a fair ransom – after all it is a record breaker.

Prior to the Triple Split, the Double Split held the record of being the only chronograph in the world capable of splitting both seconds and minutes.

For something priced along the lines of the Track 1 Geneva Edition, look no further than the F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain. The Centigraphe Souverain’s claim to fame lies in its ability to measure time up to 1/100th of a second with a 3 Hz movement. Conventionally, a 50 Hz movement would be required to perform such a feat. The trick around this is rather ingenious as detailed in our full review of the watch here. Much like the Triple Split’s ability to split hours, the practicality of being able to time 1/100th of a second is suspect. But then again, we don’t really need a mechanical watch to tell the time these days too, do we? The point is, in high horology, limits are pushed as a show of watchmaking prowess. Ingenuity is hard to come by these days but when it does, in the form of the Centigraphe Souverain or the Triple Split or something else, it should be celebrated, with rare champagne preferably. The Centigraphe Souverain in rose gold is priced around the USD60,000 mark, making it slightly more accessible than the Track 1 Geneva Edition. And of course, like most current F.P. Journe timepieces, the movement is made mostly in gold for an extra touch of luxury.

Rather than having two pushers, the F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souveraine relies on a rocker switch to start, stop, and reset chronograph functions.

Final Thoughts

Hardly anything about the fundamental principles of a mechanical chronograph has changed for decades, and then the AgenGraphe happened. The Track 1 Geneva Edition is perhaps the most paradoxical vessel that the ultra-modern movement could be placed in, and yet it is the most beautiful one. Was anyone surprised that Singer Reimagined picked up this year’s GPHG prize for best chronograph watch? No other candidate stood a chance. If the GPHG was a middle school science fair, the Track 1 would be a cold fusion reactor while the other entries were volcanoes. With the year now coming to an end, it’d hardly be unfair to call the Track 1, especially the Geneva Edition, the most exciting timepiece of 2018.

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