Welcome to Dialed In, a weekly column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world.
Last year, Swatch set a fire. The MoonSwatch, created in collaboration with Swatch Group stablemate Omega, brought the storied Speedmaster to the masses in Swatch’s proprietary bioceramic material for a price of just US$260—if you could get one before the in-store-only release sold out, that is. And now, a new collab with another Swatch Group member, Blancpain, is here to add fuel to the fire.
Last night, the Blancpain x Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms was announced. Just in time for the 70-year-anniversary of the launch of the original Fifty Fathoms diver. A fathom, for the nautically challenged, is six feet. Fifty fathoms, then, is 300, then considered the new frontier of water resistance in professional dive watches. Blancpain’s creation quickly found favour with pioneers in scuba diving. Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his team wore the Fifty Fathoms as they filmed one of the most groundbreaking underwater docs ever made, The Silent World (1956). Diverse military units from U.S. Navy Seals to French and German marines also adopted it. As scuba evolved in the 1960s into a civilian passion, the watch followed as the pinnacle of the built-for-purpose tool watch. For dive watch collectors, the Fifty Fathoms lore means that it is invariably in the top three of any serious bucket list.
Rated to a fitting 91 metres of water resistance, the new collab watch comes in five very non-Blancpain colour combs, each inspired by the world’s five oceans. Ostensibly the five watches are identical but there are some subtle variations drawn from the canon of the original Fifty Fathoms’ professional and military service, like radiation and moisture indicators—conceived as extra safety measures for divers using the FF at depths.
Unlike the MoonSwatch, the new riff on the Fifty Fathoms has a mechanical movement: the Swatch Sistem51. Developed in 2013, it's composed of 51 components. Made entirely by a machine it offers an impressive 90 hours of power reserve when fully charged. The 42.3mm case is made in Bioceramic, a two-to-one blend of ceramic and bio-sourced material derived from castor oil. The NATO strap included with each is made, fittingly, from recycled, ocean-gathered fishing nets.
The automatic movement and superior depth rating inevitably push the Blancpain x Swatch Fifty Fathoms up in price compared to the MoonSwatch. Available only in Swatch stores from Saturday, 9 September, the non-limited-edition watch is priced at US$400. Expect long lines—and inflated resale prices on reselling sites for this reimagined icon of watchmaking.
Originally published on Esquire US
Since its start in 1865, ZENITH has gone on to become the first vertically integrated Swiss watch manufacture in the world. Apart from its in-house innovation and manufactured movements, the brand is also known for its association with extraordinary figures, who dreamt big and achieved the impossible.
One such friend of ZENITH is the actor Desmond Tan, whose current favourite timepiece is the Pilot Big Date Flyback in stainless steel. We speak with the ZENITH ambassador about punctuality, rituals and the path taken to get into a role.
ESQUIRE SINGAPORE: Thanks for taking time to talk to us. First off, are you a punctual person?
DESMOND TAN: Well, I must admit, I've had my fair share of "rubber band time" moments in the past. Moments when I might have pushed the boundaries of punctuality. But, hey, that's the nature of the dreamy creative mind sometimes, right?
As I grow older (and wiser), I've come to appreciate the importance of punctuality. Time is a precious resource and being on time shows respect for both your time as well as others. I've learned to value punctuality. Especially now that I'm part of the ZENITH family where time is truly of the essence.
Having acted in both English and Mandarin dramas; are there nuances in playing roles meant for different demographics?
Absolutely! Language carries its own unique flavour. When you switch between English and Mandarin roles, there are indeed nuances to consider. The cultural context, the way emotions are being expressed and even the comedic timing can differ.
It's like switching gears and adapting to a different rhythm. But that's what makes it exciting! It allows me to explore different aspects of my craft and connect with diverse audiences. I truly embrace the challenge with open arms.
You’ve cast your lot with acting back then but if you weren’t a thespian, what would you be doing now? Will it be in the realty game?
Ah, the tantalising "what if" scenario! Well, if I weren't gracing the TV screen, I'd probably be exploring the realm of entrepreneurship. Perhaps I'd venture into the realty game, as you mentioned. Maybe even start my own business in the pet industry... who knows?
The world is full of possibilities. I've always believed in reaching for the stars, no matter the path I choose. Whether it's acting or something else, I'm always ready to seize the opportunity and make it shine!
Do you get free time for yourself?
I've been craving a lot of these blissful moments of free time. Work has been overwhelming in recent months; I'm looking forward for a break to let my soul breathe a little. A quick reminder to everyone: "Amidst the chaos and weariness, don't forget to pause, inhale deeply and let your soul breathe"
So, what do you do in your free time? Watch TV? Read?
I hardly have time to follow through with any shows due to my busy schedule. So, I watch a lot of movies like cinematic masterpieces as well as indie gems. And when it comes to reading, I just realised that I've not been reading for years now. I will set it as a priority to get back into my books after my current acting project.
Do you ever think about your legacy? You’ve talked before about making an impact in Asia, not just Singapore; how is that going?
While I'm young at heart, I do occasionally ponder about the grand tapestry of life and the legacy that I want to leave behind. As for making an impact in Asia, it's an ongoing journey. I strive to create characters and tell stories that resonate with audiences all over the world. Whether it's through film, screens or even my fashion ventures, I want to represent Singapore as an inspiring creative who constantly reaches for greater heights as I dive deeper into my inner self.
I'm fortunate to have had opportunities to work on projects that reached audiences beyond the shores of Singapore and I'm grateful for the support and love I've received throughout my career. I believe that by continuing to push boundaries, collaborating with different talents and exploring diverse narratives, I can play my part in leaving a lasting impact on the Asian entertainment industry. So, watch out, world, because I'm just getting started!
What are some of the ways you get into your roles?
Well, each role is a unique adventure and I approach it with a mix of curiosity with tons of research coupled with a sprinkle of imagination. I dive deep into understanding the character's background, motivations and emotional journey; I embrace their quirks, mannerisms, thought processes and even their speech patterns. I draw inspiration from personal experiences, observations, and the wonderful people I meet along the way. And of course, I love exploring the different physicality and mindset required for each role. It's a joyous process of discovery, and it keeps me on my toes as an actor. As cliché, as it might sound, it's a constant learning process as an actor. 100% truth!
What is a question that you wish the media would have asked you?
"If you were to win a million-dollar lucky draw, what would you want to do with it? Shoot a movie or..."
As much as I love movie making, I also have a deep love for animals and I have a dream of building an animal shelter. I wish to create a sanctuary where animals in distress can find love, care, and a second chance at a happy life. I envision a place that provides physical and emotional well-being, with dedicated staff and volunteers showering the animals with love and attention. It would also serve as an educational centre, promoting responsible pet ownership and animal welfare. I wish to work towards a world where every animal has a loving home and a wagging tail or a purr of contentment! Any readers who share the same vision with a spare million dollars, you know who to contact!
Do you have any rituals or superstitions that you employ before performing live?
I do have a few quirky habits that help me get in the zone. I use different fragrances for different characters and I'll wear the fragrance when I'm driving to work.
Also, before the cam rolls, I would like to find a quiet corner to gather my thoughts and take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing is essential. It's my way of centring myself and focusing my energy. It's all about finding that little boost of confidence and creating the right frame of the character's mindset before the camera starts rolling.
As an actor and a public figure, is it hard to maintain some secrets for your self when the cameras aren’t rolling?
The dance between privacy and public life is something I get better at over the past years—honestly, it's still a work in progress! In this digital age, indeed, maintaining secrets can sometimes be a challenge. However, everyone deserves a certain level of privacy, including public figures. It's about finding a balance between sharing parts of my life with my amazing fans and keeping some aspects sacred. At the end of the day, it's important to have a sense of self outside of the spotlight, to nurture relationships, and to enjoy those quiet moments that make us who we are. So, yes, it can be tricky but I'm learning to navigate it with grace.
Given that ZENITH means the "apex of success", what's your zenith moment in your life?
I recently spoke to a dear mentor of mine whom I haven't met for years and the first question he asked was, "How is the sweet taste of success? Enjoying it?" That immediately brought a big smile to my face. It was a simple yet deep question.
My mentor guided me to breakthroughs in my performance that led me to my first Best Actor Award and my career has been growing incredibly well since then. Looking back, it has been indeed many years of success as an actor and a human being. I believe success is a journey rather than a destination.
From receiving accolades for my performances to witnessing the impact my work has had on audiences, those moments have been exhilarating and humbling. However, I also believe that success isn't solely defined by external recognition or material accomplishments. It's about personal growth, pushing boundaries, and staying true to my passion for acting. Every project I take on, every character I bring to life, is an opportunity for me to strive for that apex of success.
But let's not forget that success is also a multifaceted concept. It's not just about individual achievements; it's about the collective journey and the people who supported me along the way. I am incredibly grateful for the love and encouragement from my fans, the unwavering support of my family and friends, and the incredible team I work with. Their belief in me and their dedication to our shared vision has been instrumental in all successes I've experienced.
While I have encountered moments that could be considered as a glimpse of that apex of success, I continue to chase after new horizons and challenge myself to reach even greater heights. After all, the zenith is a destination that keeps evolving, and I'm thrilled to see where this exhilarating journey takes me next!
The ZENITH Pilot Big Date Flyback.
It’s a common trope: the seasoned watch collector who already has it all, wondering what else out there could possibly excite him. He owns more than just the usual suspects, and counts among his collection the grail watches others can only dream of. What more could such a person want?
Perhaps it’s finally time for him to look into vintage timepieces. Perhaps the esoteric independents could spark some interest. Or perhaps he is just not looking hard enough. Watches and Wonders this year showcased novelties that prove there is still much to see (and covet). From completely new lines to long overdue releases, the major manufactures clearly still have cards up their sleeves.
A Renewed Focus
What is arguably the most coveted timepiece for any seasoned collector this year is the new Perpetual 1908 from Rolex, which has introduced an entirely new line of dress watches for the brand. Let’s begin by addressing the elephant in the room: Rolex’s dress watches have simply not enjoyed the popularity of their sportier siblings.
Instead, the Cellini line of classically styled dress watches—which included the criminally underrated Cellini Prince—was largely overshadowed by Rolex’s Professional range of timepieces in the past decade. It thus came as no surprise when Rolex quietly retired most of the Cellini collection last year. The sole remaining model, the Cellini Moonphase ref. 50535, was discontinued earlier this year as well, thus marking the end of an era for the brand.
Replacing the Cellini is the new Perpetual collection, which now serves as Rolex’s main pillar for dress watches. The collection was unveiled at Watches and Wonders with just a single model, the Perpetual 1908. And oh, what a watch it is!
The Perpetual 1908’s name pays homage to the year founder Hans Wilsdorf trademarked the “Rolex” name. Sized at 39 millimetres across and measuring just 9.5 millimetres high, it will suit most wrists and slip effortlessly under a cuff. To complement its modest proportions, Rolex has given it a clean, minimalist aesthetic that comes complete with several classic appointments. Note, for instance, how the fluted bezel is visually paralleled by the railway track chapter ring. In much the same way, the Breguet-esque hour hand and sword-shaped minute hand references dress watches of yore, albeit with a modern twist.
Mechanically, there is much to talk about as well. The Perpetual 1908 is powered by Rolex’s new calibre 7140, which sports the Genevan manufacture’s latest advancements in movement technology. The Chronergy escapement within it, for example, has greater energy efficiency and reliability than traditional Swiss lever escapements. In the same vein, calibre 7140’s Syloxi hairspring offers all the benefits of a silicon balance spring, while also sporting a unique geometry that ensures concentric breathing. A long 66-hour power reserve completes the package by providing greater convenience.
The Perpetual 1908 is clearly just the first model in a collection that Rolex will soon expand, whether with complications or time-only watches in other sizes. There is, however, always an irresistible allure when it comes to firsts. For any connoisseur of Rolex timepieces, the new Perpetual 1908 will be a must-have.
There is, of course, the welcome conundrum of deciding which of the four available references one should get. The 1908 is cased in both yellow gold and white gold. Each variant is offered with either a white or black satin finished dial.
Long Awaited Chronographs
For aficionados of watchmaking complications, a trio of chronographs await. Three iconic brands (Swiss, German and Japanese, no less) have each unveiled a long overdue chronograph model to bolster their respective collections.
Patek Philippe’s Calatrava Pilot Travel Time line, which was introduced in 2015, has finally received its first chronograph model: the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5924. Consider this the brand’s answer to collectors’ call for chronographs in the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time range. The complication has, after all, been integral to aviation and pilot watches.
Presented in white gold with either a khaki green dial and matching calfskin strap, or a sunburst blue-grey dial with navy blue calfskin strap, Ref. 5924 offers a flyback chronograph with a 60-minute totaliser at six o’clock. The watch retains the line’s signature Travel Time complication, thus allowing it to maintain the same visual codes that have informed its sibling designs.
A. Lange & Söhne’s entry here is the Odysseus Chronograph. This is the Odysseus line’s first chronograph, while also being the brand's first-ever self-winding chronograph. To preserve the Odysseus’s distinct feature of outsized day and date displays, A. Lange & Söhne has opted for the unconventional layout of central chronograph second and minute totalisers. Interestingly, the red-coloured chronograph seconds hand will make as many revolutions as necessary to “return” to zero when it is reset—and do so in the direction that requires fewer revolutions. Superficially, it’s a fun little feature on the watch, but this belies the mechanical complexity required for its execution. The minutes totaliser, which is tipped with a lozenge, will jump back to zero as per normal, but do so in the same direction as the chronograph second hand.
Grand Seiko rounds up the trio with the Tentagraph, its first mechanical chronograph. The name of the watch is a quirky portmanteau of its movement’s features: TEN beats per second, Three-day power reserve, and Automatic chronoGRAPH. As part of the Evolution 9 collection, it speaks an updated design language based on 1967’s 44GS watch, which has anchored the aesthetics for all Grand Seiko timepieces since. From the increased lug width and wider bracelets that now provide a more comfortable and secure fit, to tweaked dial elements for greater legibility, Evolution 9 marks a new chapter for the brand. In much the same way, the Tentagraph is a milestone that collectors will be well-served to take a closer look at.
Collectors who seek exclusivity will find it in the highest echelons of watchmaking, where technical complexity and artisanal crafts meet. Such rarified works demand both the time and touch of the most skilled watchmakers and artisans, which necessitate limited (or just one-off) production runs. This translates into rarity, of course, but the challenge of access is often a joy in and of itself.
Jaeger-LeCoultre showcased this in the Reverso Hybris Artistica Calibre 179, which offers a new iteration of the gyrotourbillon movement. Here, the multiaxial gyrotourbillon consists of two elements: a brisk inner cage that rotates once every 16 seconds, and an outer carriage that doubles as the small seconds indicator by rotating once every minute. Gyrotourbillon aside, Calibre 179 displays two separate time zones across its faces, with Home Time supplemented by a 24-hour indicator. As for métiers d'art, Jaeger-LeCoultre has opted for lacquering as the anchoring technique. On the main face, a technique similar to champlevé enamelling is used, with depressions cut into the movement’s main plate, then filled in with lacquer while leaving thin gold ribs behind as a decorative feature. Meanwhile, the dial on the reverse face sees lacquer being applied more traditionally, and supplemented with other finishes like microblasting and hand-chamfering. Given the work involved, the Reverso Hybris Artistica Calibre 179 is understandably limited to just 10 pieces worldwide.
Likewise, Cartier’s Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication Skeleton pocket watch melds mechanical ingenuity and artisanal mastery to illustrate a no-holds-barred approach to watchmaking. Its 9506 MC movement is among Cartier’s most complex, and combines a minute repeater, flying tourbillon, and perpetual calendar—with skeletonisation to boot. To match this level of aplomb, the movement is housed within a white gold case measuring 56 millimetres across, which in turn is presented on a display frame constructed in rock crystal, obsidian and white gold. The timepiece is available in two references: one with a fluted white gold bezel, and the other with a diamond-set bezel. Five pieces of each reference will be available.
Vacheron Constantin offers a different take on exclusivity with its Les Cabinotiers Dual Moon Grand Complication. The double-sided watch counts a total of 11 complications including the minute repeater, perpetual calendar, celestial chart, sidereal hour display, and moon phase.
The technical expertise required to pull off such a feat is matched by the same attention to design and aesthetics. This can be seen throughout the timepiece, from the exceptional movement decoration to the micron-level precision that the moon discs are finished to. The timepiece is, unsurprisingly, a pièce unique. It does, however, showcase Les Cabinotiers’ enviable position in the industry—to be able to create anything its clients can dream of, given sufficient time and resources.
A Return To Form
Finally, there are two brands that deserve special mention for rejuvenating their icons this year. TAG Heuer and IWC have reworked the Carrera and Ingenieur respectively, with the new iterations promising exciting releases for subsequent models in the years ahead.
For TAG Heuer, the new Carrera Chronograph “Glassbox” is the highlight. The timepiece has been released as part of the Carrera’s 60th anniversary celebrations, and marks a tweaked visual identity for the line.
The “Glassbox” moniker comes from its domed crystal, which effectively “caps” the watch to reposition the tachymeter scale from the bezel to a sloped inner flange. This doesn’t just echo domed crystals that were prevalent in the 1970s, but also presents a fresh take on the idea that, undoubtedly, represents a new chapter for the Carrera. Of course, the crystal of this modern iteration has been rendered in sapphire, instead of Hesalite (i.e. acrylic), which was the material of choice back then.
Powering the new Carrera Chronograph "Glassbox" is the Calibre TH20-00 self-winding chronograph movement. This is an updated version of the Heuer 02 movement that TAG Heuer launched in 2016, and comes upgraded with bi-directional winding as well as a visual upgrade to its oscillating weight, which has been sculpted to parallel the brand's logo. As testament to its improved reliability, TAG Heuer is also extending the watch's warranty from two years to five years.
The Ingenieur, on the other hand, sees the return of Gerald Genta’s legendary Ingenieur SL Ref. 1832 in a new guise: the Ingenieur Automatic 40. The spiritual successor to what is arguably the archetypal Ingenieur reference that has made the collection what it is today is no mere remake though. Instead, IWC has given it various updates. The new textured dial, for instance, helps to create visual interest in what is otherwise a purely technical timepiece, while the modified bezel now features functional screws in lieu of decorative recesses.
Elsewhere, much attention has also been paid to the other aspects of the watch’s design and mechanics. The original nose-shaped horns on Ref. 1832, for instance, have been replaced by conventional lugs that start with a middle link. This preserves the aesthetics of the Ingenieur’s integrated bracelet—an important part of its visual identity—but creates a closer, more comfortable fit on the wrist for greater wearability.
In much the same way, the right case flank now has subtly protruding crown protection, which lends a more sporty character to the watch while also serving a functional purpose.
Clearly, there are still novelties aplenty that can excite, even for the seasoned collector. One only needs to know where to look.
CODE41 welcomes a second edition to the ANOMALY EVOLUTION family. In a move that comes two years after the first edition, this time there's an additional colour for a dash of dynamism. A testament to resilience, the ANOMALY EVOLUTION was designed in the middle of a watchmaking crisis and a global pandemic. A supply chain issue brought on at the height of the pandemic in 2021 saw newfound difficulty in procuring the ETA and Miyota movements that were utilised in both the Anomaly-01 and 02, effectively making them no longer available.
Enter the ANOMALY EVOLUTION Edition 2 which features the technical design of its predecessor the 01 while including the Swiss movement and date of the 02 version. Heavily involved in the watchmaking process, the community voted on the new orange colour of the ANOMALY EVOLUTION. This one-of-a-kind participatory approach is a staple for the Swiss watchmaking manufacturer.
The movement ANOMALY EVOLUTION Edition 2 is a Sellita SW200-1 Special, with a precision of -7/+7 seconds per day. This is an enhancement from its predecessors the Anomaly-02 which had a precision of -/+12 and the Anomaly-01’s precision of -20/+ 40 seconds per day. When it comes to aesthetics, the timepiece incorporates enhanced ergonomics and a reduced thickness of 11.2mm. ANOMALY EVOLUTION also comes with enhanced readability and amplified watertightness to 100 metres. An Incabloc shock absorber is also included for added durability to support the balance wheel. The introduction of an exhibition caseback allows the movement to be admired.
Bridging the gap between tradition and innovation, CODE41 raised the bar of watchmaking. With total transparency with the community, it proves why the brand continues to be one of the biggest watch disruptors on the market.
The 300 Edition 2 pieces will be available for pre-order until 19 July 2023 on code41.com.
This was originally published on LUXUO.