Expectations?

Expectations?  – odd title but prompted by a friend who asked my view on a Patek Philippe model which was on sale for around £5000+ and quartz powered!  Now I don’t know about you but when I think of the Patek Philippe brand I’m thinking absolute quality.

I’m thinking beautifully sculpted and finished mechanical movements and clever fashionable designs – and like the advert – so refined and just so good that it passes down the generations, time after time.  The buyer pays for the privilege of wearing such a powerful statement, often hidden by an understated refinement it simply speaks class.  You’re someone who’s “made it” so to speak and with an implied old money elegance and sophistication in comparison to the ubiquitous and often ostentatious Rolex.

Expecting this?

Expecting this? (Nautilus calibre)

Now you know perfectly well that a quartz model won’t quite be the same as their classics, but that said, perhaps you’re also not quite expecting the plastic/metal module, a few gears, a couple of coils and a battery – right?  And being a Patek Philppe you’d expect that battery to last a lifetime and probably your son’s too, seeing you passed it down to him when you finally quit the rat race.

But it doesn’t and the image here with the back removed shows a typical PP quartz sporting what’s probably a good old Renata SR371SW costing under £2.00.

A quartz watch Patek style

But got this! (Quartz calibre) with battery removed.

So it’s hardly surprising that when I see a not so old vintage “quartz” Patek for over £5000+ – I really struggle to see the value, especially when I open up the back and see a few soldered joints and that common old battery sitting there.  Nice bit of fret work on the battery holder I agree, but for me it doesn’t feel like a whole lot of money.

It’s like retrofitting a Mini engine into a Rolls – it just doesn’t seem right.

That’s not to say it isn’t good, because Patek Philippe is good but is it really value?

And of course that’s another matter completely – value – because the very top brands simply rise above the common concept of “value” as such and enter a different world with both a monetary and status value entirely of their own making.

One of the plus points regarding quartz watches is that you can pop off the back yourself and swap out the battery – it doesn’t take a great deal of skill and it’s usually done in minutes.  But how many owners of Pateks ever take the back off their prized model and to gaze on that wonderful calibre, or in this case that rather common looking quartz movement.  And unless they have an exhibition back in most cases the internals will never ever be seen.

And regarding the quartz version – well you could look at it in another way – it’s just a change of power source.  Everything is the same, it’s a power source thing and instead of that mainspring, hairspring, regulators and associated gears and stuff you’ve got a battery.  Not an 18ct gold one but a £1.50 one and the whole shooting match is really accurate.

OK?  Well no it doesn’t work for me either.

However the top brands, if quartz, are sometimes not like the plastic digital modules and basic mechanics of lesser brands and some feature pretty smart metal work inside and that’s maybe as it should be considering the brand, but it’s still a quartz job whatever you say.

Always amazed that such a simple change – battery instead of spring can make such a vast difference.  Perception is everything.

But for me though as I like quartz watches (let’s face it, they keep better time than mechanical ones) it has to be a question of price, of value, which maybe shows my class or maybe lack of it, because to me price matters.  Perhaps I’m not cut out to be a true Patek Philippe owner.  After all as a collector I don’t even have a Rolex!

Though in saying that, if a classic mechanical automatic Patek Philippe came along, at a quiet little auction somewhere and at a good price I would probably be very tempted.

But there again I do have Breguet and Vacheron and a few others in the same league, so maybe it’s just a question of preference and I hasten to add none of them are quartz.

However there are other quality brands offering Quartz versions, allegedly to suit the Ladies market – one of the reasons apparently is that ladies don’t want the tiresome business of winding their watch every so often and automatics are just so expensive.
PP seemingly offer them partly as a recognition of the historical significance of quartz too and of course for the “ladies” and an odd few for gents.  Though get one of those and it usually is not that easy to sell on, let alone leave it to your offspring!

It could be “that” heirloom that gets passed around!   Friends are likely to say – “Oh I know he’s got a Patek, but it’s quartz would you believe!”  Almost into the realm of fakes dare I say!

Cartier Solo quartz at around £1200

Cartier Solo quartz at around £1200

But as I said, there are others, such as Cartier, who produce quartz versions very successfully and with somewhat more conviction.  The Gents Cartier Solo model is one.  And yes this is one of a few “brand” quartz models I do own and personally I love it.   Firstly as it is so well priced (around £1200 new) and secondly as it has a flat tank profile as opposed to the rounder tank case – and definitely I prefer the former.  It’s neater and it sits better on the wrist.

And I can live with the fact that the battery only costs around £1.50 and I can change it myself in minutes when required.  It’s probably got a jewel or two added in but basically it’s a quartz module like any other.  It is what it is . . . .

Cartier Quartz

Cartier Quartz

But what it isn’t is £5000+!

And maybe that’s the point for me.  The fact that if the wonderfully intricate mechanics of the mechanical movement have been replaced with a modern day quartz mass produced drop-in battery timer, then I’d want a really big price reduction to compensate for that loss.
And in that regard Cartier have got it just about right.  And at the end of the day it has to be about price.

Isn’t everything!

However if I was paying that “I’ve made it status” asking price for that top brand, I’d want to see it at it’s best.   The best workmanship, the best mechanics, the best style.

And for the privilege of owning such a timepiece I’m perfectly happy (if a manual model) to wind it up every day or two, just to remind me its there.

And I suppose that’s one of the reasons I got into watch collecting in the first place.  The fact that once you take the back off a watch you are suddenly into another world.  The reflections off the finished plates and the beating heart of the miniature mechanics, ticking away virtually silently – alive – as time measures it’s way onwards . . . . Wow!

Lacroix Sphere

Maurice Lacroix are an interesting Watch Company today in that they are one of the few Independent Swiss Watchmakers around.  A luxury watch supplier for many years they came into their own I suppose around 1989 when they took over case maker Queloz S.A who were based in Saignelégier.  As a Company they were formed as part of Desco von Schulthess of Zurich in around 1975, but since the early to mid 1990’s have expanded to become one of the leading Watch brands today.

They make a wide range of models from high end mechanical to mid range quartz – such as this one – the Sphere.

Maurice Lacroix Sphere in stainless steel

I managed to get this pre-owned model in an auction recently as a sort of “yours or mine Dear” watch for day or evening wear.  I say this as this particular one is a mid size or unisex as they say today at 34mm diameter and suits my 170mm wrist perfectly, but also fits my Wife!  So what could be more even handed that that!

This is a really neat looking watch in stainless steel with a highly polished case and subtly contrasting brushed stainless top bezel, with interesting elongated lugs and case design.  The round faced case has a pronounced curve and the original tan soft leather strap is specially formed to fit this as the spring bars actually fit a little back from the end of the strap.
As to the watch face, the dial is white with hourly applied silvered markers, quarterly applied Arabic numerals and owing to the thickness of these are quite clear to see.   It has a date aperture @3 with a slightly off white/silvered textured background for clarity which is effective.

Extreme curved case & elongated lug design

The hour and minuted hands are a slightly chunky (lanzenform) infill style, though whether specified as luminous is doubtful, being as easily seen as my wallet last night!  The stainless steel case is very solid in appearance and as an ensemble is a high quality construction with a strong textured “snap on” back also in stainless steel.  It is marked 50m Water Resistance. The crystal is a strong looking Sapphire and the crown unobtrusive @3 but with a decent knurled profile for setting.

This model is certainly not a current one, though I have noticed it is still around and for sale in a couple of different sized versions as new old stock I assume, so can be had for, I would hope, discounted prices.

Mid size Maurice Lacroix on a 170mm wrist – looks good.

Well – as I said, when it’s fitted to my wrist I think it looks pretty good and I’ll certainly wear this on occasion I’m sure.  However I’m also sure my Wife will wear it too and I just have this feeling that she may acquire it as her new “daily beater” and I might just never see it again –

But hey! – that’s life!

Neat Laco from Germany

Known as the Laco “Squad” watch, this is the smaller quartz version which I much prefer to the larger more common one.  At 40mm diameter as opposed to 46mm and just over 9mm depth compared to 13mm, makes for a much neater watch and one that I definitely prefer.  The heavy “articulated” lugs are quite striking and the top one shrouds and protects the large crown very well, which as you see is unusually at the 12 o’clock position.

Laco “Squad” quartz in stainless – Model 86 2014

The Swiss movement is the Quartz ETA F06.111, the case is a well made and very solid brushed stainless steel with a slightly oversize anti-clockwise unidirectional bezel.  An excellent AR coated crystal makes the dial clarity something special as the matt black is in high contrast to the highly luminous hour markers and Superluminova C3 hands.  There is also a minute track around perimeter coupled with the very clear center second hand with the luminous dot showing it’s position clearly.  Simple date window @6 completes the layout.

Articulated lugs and crown protection

Water resistance is pretty good at 200 metres, assisted by the Screw Down crown.
A luminous dot on the bezel is another typical divers touch.
The supplied strap however, for me just doesn’t suit being one of those wavy knobbly divers affairs that may be OK on top of a neoprene suit, but it simply does not fit snug to my wrist – so I ditched it and teamed it up with a nice Silicon deployment strap that properly holds these articulated lugs in the correct position for the wrist.  It really makes for a very neat watch in wearing.

Clarity without bulk

40mm suits even a small wrist

All in all an excellent choice for a “daily beater” – it looks good, perfect size, Quartz no fuss Swiss movement, very easy to read and very comfortable to wear –

Says it all really. . . . .

Raymond Weil retro Quartz

Picked this up at an auction recently simply as I rather liked the retro styling.  I hadn’t seen this one in the current range and for me it evokes an earlier age with the sculpted lugs and the neat checkered dial pattern.

Gold plated retro Raymond Weil in quartz

Gold plated quartz with white dial with checked off white design to the inner, hourly applied Roman numerals, small round date aperture @6, bordered by a minute track.  Round case fitted to an authentic black leather Raymond Weil strap with signed pin buckle. The retro lug design looks really neat and sets of the watch quite nicely. The hour and minute hands are black steel and the seconds hand in gold with painted black pointer end for clarity.

Slim at 6mm and Raymond Weil leather strap

The dial is marked with the Raymond Weil name and Geneve – there is a Swiss mark at the foot of the dial and the back plate is marked Raymond Weil, RW, a case number and water resistant.

RW logo plain back

The case diameter is 31mm (37mm lug to lug) and at only just over 6mm this is a very neat dress watch indeed.  Suits my small wrist just about perfectly and this watch would be very wearable for a lady these days.

With older, old stock and pre-owned watch models it is often very difficult to find out the exact model. Details can be very hard to find, such as date of manufacture, retail price when current and even the question of provenance – is the watch genuine?  Auction houses or dealers in general usually try quite hard to ensure that items they sell are genuine and to that end they often remove the back to check the movement, usually a dead giveaway – but for quartz watches this is often not quite so easy.  The quartz movement may or may not be signed and could be of Chinese or Japanese origin.  However it’s fact that a Swiss watch could well have these as perfectly legitimate quartz movement suppliers, so it’s always a “buyer beware”.

On the wrist

This model is a true Raymond Weil and the watch size in keeping with the retro period it suggests.  The strap is certainly made for Gents wear with holes set for about 170mm minimum wrist size without extras added.  Generally the older the watch, the smaller it will be and this one at 31mm is similar in size to many other Gents watches I have of the same and earlier period.

One thing I do know as a collector who wears all my watches at some time or another is that this one looks pretty good on the wrist – and that’s what it was meant to do.