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Throwback Sundays: Six Dream Watches, from Our Archives

"Some people live their dreams, some people close their eyes"
by Robin Lim on May 10, 2020

The lockdown period – amidst all the work and projects – gave us more time to indulge in some daydreaming. Naturally, as watch enthusiasts, we have a little more time to read more about timepieces, and also think about what are some of our dream watches that we would like to have in our collection.

Hence, for this week’s article, we will be taking a look at some of our favourite grail watches that are available in the market. We will focus more on the tangible aspects, in terms of complications and finishing. Of course, the exclusivity, as well as desirability by watch collecting community, will play a role in the selection as well.

So, what are some of the dream watches that we reckon most collectors would like to have in their collection? Let us find out.

Philippe Dufour Simplicity

We begin the article with one of our perennial favourites: Philippe Dufour Simplicity.

The Simplicity is the epitome of making simple things perfect. It is a watch that is without any significant complications, but it focuses on making each aspect of the timepiece as perfect as what it can be. The pièce de résistance of this piece lies in the movement, specifically the superlative finishing. There are a multitude of hand-finishing techniques were applied, and that includes black polishing, interior angling, and chamfering. The double assembly method is also applied to ensure that the final finish is not marred by the assembly and adjustment process. This is dedication at its finest.

The Simplicity is discontinued, and its last known retail price is CHF89,000 (approximately S$129,485). We have, however, seen some of the pieces being priced upwards of US$200,000 (approximately S$282,540), and even then, it is rarely seen or available in the secondary markets. Touted as one of the finest watches to have been ever produced, the Simplicity is certainly one of the grail watches for many collectors. But of course, by setting the bar so high at the start, it would only mean that we will be seeing some rather spectacular pieces as we progress along the list.

Roger Smith Series 2

The English are not necessarily well-known for their watches, although they are the pioneers in the field of watchmaking in the past. However, it is very foolish to rule them out. Roger Smith, for instance, is one of the Brits that continues to carry the torch for the country in watchmaking.

An apprentice of the legendary George Daniels, Roger Smith is an independent watchmaker that had set up his atelier in the Isle of Mann. The Series 2, notably, is one of the only two collections of watches that he has to offer. The Series 2 is indeed a very special watch – almost all of its components are made or finished in his workshop. In addition, the watch is also constructed using Daniels’ Method. This includes the three-part case, as well as the movement which features the famous co-axial escapement system (which Roger Smith continued to work on and improved on it).

Priced at £100,890 (approximately S$176,977), the Series 2 is indeed an exclusive timepiece – and one with an extremely long waiting list. However, few watches come close in terms of how special it is, and it definitely shows that traditional watchmaking is something that is still highly treasured and sought-after by collectors these days.

MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual

The Legacy Machine (LM) collection, from MB&F, focuses on designing watches that the brand would have created 100 years ago. While it is less “crazy” as compared to the Horological Machine (HM) counterpart, but the creations from the LM collections are certainly mind-blowing to a large extent as well.

Prior to the LM Perpetual, there were already three models in the LM collection. They were all time-only watches, with variations in terms of the dial and the signature “open-concept” balance wheel. However, MB&F had decided to up the ante, and produce something that is much more complicated. This led to the creation of the LM Perpetual, in which it features a new perpetual calendar system that omits the grand levier. This allows the calendar to be adjusted quicker, and it also enables the designer to suspend the signature balance above the dial side. Please refer to our review article to find out more about MB&F’s perpetual calendar system.

The LM Perpetual (S$226,000, in red gold) is a totally different timepiece from its siblings in the collection – it appears to be an antithesis to the classy and simple watches that the series is synonymous with. But that does not reduce the appeal of the watch, and we think that MB&F had done a great job reimagining this classic complication.

Ferdinand Berthoud FB1L

Ferdinand Berthoud is an intriguing project by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele of Chopard. The idea behind the brand is to recreate watches by the late master clockmaker Ferdinand Berthoud – but re-imagined with modernised technology and materials.

The FB1L is one of the latest pieces from the brand itself. The design dialect is an entirely mind-boggling concept – in which it is unlike any usual regulators (the main central hand indicates the seconds, which is vastly different from the usual), and the dial is predominantly a large negative space in the earlier versions. As more complications are added on to the later editions, the negative spaces are then slowly filled up. The latest variant comes with the usual patented power reserve indicator, as well as the rare “age of the moon” complication.

The surprise does not stop only at the dial. The movement – Calibre FB-T.FC.L. – is certainly a treat, with brilliant finishing and different technical bits incorporated. It also features some of the most sought-after complications, such as a giant tourbillon (measuring 16.5mm) and fusée and chain system. This is a visual treat for watch collectors.

Not surprisingly, the FB1L comes attached with a hefty price tag. Prices for the titanium model with white gold bezel begins at CHF 250,000 (approximately S$387,450), while the full white gold variant retails at CHF 265,000 (approximately S$410,697). This is, however, something that is truly special – and we reckon that there are not many watches out there that is capable of matching what the FB1L has to offer.

A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite”

The Pour le Mérite collection from A Lange & Söhne is considered to be the pinnacle of watchmaking for the Glashütte-based watch manufacturer. They are considered to be some of the most well-made, stunning, and complicated watches to be produced by the maison, and they are certainly one of the most desirable series of watches to collect for the longest time.

Topping the range is the ultra-exclusive Tourbograph Perpetual. The 43mm timepiece, as the name suggests, features some of the most complicated functions: chronograph, tourbillon, fusée-and-chain mechanism, and the perpetual calendar. It is the certainly the crème de la crème of timepieces from the Glashütte-based watch manufacturer.

Powering the behemoth is the sublime Calibre L133.1. The 1319-part hand-winding movement has a power reserve of 36 hours, and it operates at a stately 21,600 beats per hour. The finishing surpasses most of the top manufacturers out there, with fine haute horlogerie touches such as chamfering, black polishing, heat-blued screws, and Glashütte ribbing. The signature hand-engraved balance cock – which is found in every Lange timepieces – is definitely present as well.

The platinum watch is priced at €480,000 (approximately S$743,905). It is certainly a princely sum, but it is not without its strong and compelling merits. This is perhaps one of the best timepieces that the maison has to offer, and it is a masterpiece through and through.

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1

We round up the article with Greubel Forsey and its latest and possibly one of the most ambitious creations: Hand Made 1.

The Hand Made 1 is the result of 6,000 hours’ worth of man hours, which culminates in the prototype model as seen above. The goal of the watch is to create a timepiece that is 95% made by hand, and it is monumental as many skills or machineries have been made obsolete with modern watchmaking processes. In addition, Greubel Forsey hopes to take these watchmaking skills to a level that has never been attained before – with the help of a team consisting some of the most skilled craftsmen in each field.

The result of all these can be seen in the tiny details. It is like an Easter egg hunt, with a surprise at every corner. In the traditional Greubel Forsey fashion, plenty of finishing techniques are used on the watch – special mentions to the black polishing, frosted finish on the plates, and patchwork pattern on the reserve side of the timepiece. It is noteworthy to mention that every haute horlogerie finishing method is executed at the absolute top level. For the lack of a better word, the watch is simply outrageous.

Perfection, however, does come at a price. The Hand Made 1 can be yours at CHF 1 million (approximately S$1.45 million), and Greubel Forsey only plans to make 2 to 3 watches per year. For many watch collectors, this is perhaps the pinnacle of what the industry is capable of achieving.

Concluding Thoughts

The list is certainly not exhaustive, to say the least. Selecting 6 watches, out of the many wonderful timepieces available, is certainly not an easy task. It might be even sacrilegious, to exclude master watchmakers such as the likes of Kari Voutilainen and Hajime Asaoka. Perhaps, a supplementary article might just do a little more justice.

It is, however, interesting to note that most of these watches are from independent watchmakers. And that is what we like about independent watchmaking. These watchmakers are not bounded by any restrictions, and they are allowed to exercise their creativity and transgress towards fine finishing techniques that are otherwise not profitable or efficient for major corporations or conglomerates. That is the beauty, and we should therefore celebrate this spirit and their fight to keep these traditions alive.

So, what are your thoughts on our selection today? How would you actually define a dream watch, and what are some of the watches that you would like to have, if money is not a deciding factor? Let us know in the comments section below!

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