If Zenith is known for one thing, it is their legendary El Primero movement: the world’s fastest oscillating automatic chronograph movement at the time of its unveiling in 1969. Although having struggled (like many other watchmakers) during the Quartz Crisis of the ’70s to ’80s, Zenith’s popularity of late has been largely fuelled by the re-releases of its trio of 1969 El Primero-powered offerings. Comprising of the A384, A385 and A386, the lattermost timepiece is arguably the most iconic of the trio, with its tri-coloured silver, grey and blue sub-dials going on to become a hallmark of the Le Locle manufacture.

Today, the A386’s spiritual heir is the Chronomaster Original, unveiled in 2021—a watch deliberately designed to visually resemble its storied predecessor as closely as possible. Initially, the Chronomaster Original was offered in two variations: a creamy-white dial, and a two-tone, black-and-white reverse panda dial. Both (especially the "reverse panda" variant) were extremely well-received, leading Zenith to combine the best of both in the 2023 release. Culminating in an elegant union of the black dial from the reverse panda with the famed tri-coloured sub-dials of the cream-white dial variant, the timepiece marks the first time the combination has been seen on the Chronomaster Original’s brush-polished and chamfered-edge visage.

As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Apart from the dial, everything else from the 2021 Chronomaster Original is carried over to the 2023 iteration. It measures in at 38mmx13mm and retains the 4:30 date window and chronograph pump pushers—staying true to the visual cues of the 1969 A386. The only concessions to modernity are the domed sapphire crystal, and an update of the iconic, vintage “ladder” bracelet to a modern, three-link steel bracelet. The Chronomaster Original’s case is also manufactured from digital scans of the original A386’s, further strengthening the lineage between the two timepieces.

The El Primero Calibre 3600 movement at the heart of the Chronomaster Original is a contemporary take on the manufacture’s iconic El Primero base calibre.

Although visually identical, the high-beat, El Primero Calibre 3600 movement inside the historically accurate case brings the signature El Primero base calibre into the 21st century. The integration of a 1/10th of a second chronograph means the central red chronograph hand completes a rotation around the dial every 10 seconds—a configuration not present on the original A386. 

The 2023 Chronomaster Original is may largely be similar to its 2021 siblings, but its release still warrants celebration. The marriage of the watch’s heritage-inspired design cues with contemporary sophistication marks a noteworthy evolution of the A386’s lineage.

Photo by Vacheron Constantin

A two-for-one deal is one of the little treats that can make a mundane day feel a little less so—whatever tax bracket you sit within. For most, that will likely be an extra Dairy Milk bar from your local Tesco. But for those taking home six figures, it's a bit more luxe. Think: a hand-made automative that comes with a unique watch as part of one astronomically large fee. Two mechanical masterpieces for the price of one, what a steal!

It was what caught the attention of petrolheads at this year’s Monterey Car Week, as Rolls-Royce unveiled the La Rose Noire Droptail. It's a coachbuild car—a bespoke service so exclusive the manufacturer's website describes it as “the automotive equivalent of haute couture”—that’s been fitted with pièce unique Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph on its dashboard. It's estimated to be worth around $30 million.

As to be expected, this timepiece is as gobsmacking as the car’s price. Press a button on the left-hand side of the dashboard, and the 43mm titanium case will rise for the wearer to slip onto their wrist. AP artisans have hand-sculptured a solution to the bare holder, by way of a watch head fitted with a white-gold coin to put in place of the dashboard clock when it's out and about.

Inside the watch is an open-worked and self-winding calibre 4407, while custom red counters and a red inner bezel matches the car’s La Rose Noire colourway. Just like the original Concept that was launched earlier this year, the model comes with interchangeable straps that can be stored in its own leather pouch for when it’s not in use.

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The type of customer who has opted for such an extravagant car modification will be pleased to know that dashboard watches of such intricate detail are generally a rare addition. That was until last week, when Vacheron Constantin announced that they too had designed a ‘one-of-a-kind’ dashboard watch for another custom Rolls-Royce Droptail—this time, in Amethyst.

Of course, just because it’s being made for the same-but-different-colour car doesn’t mean it’s the same-but-different-colour dashboard watch. The Swiss marque has equipped the single-edition Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon with the calibre 1990, a hand-wound in-house complication movement incorporating certain technical features deriving from Reference 57260—the most complicated timepiece in the world, presented by the maison in 2015.

A bi-axil tourbillon nods to the work of 18th century French watchmaker Antide Janvier, who invented a moving sphere with a planetary gear known as an armillary. Visually, it mimics the interlocking circles and armillas (graduated metal discs) of the famous scientific instrument modelling the celestial sphere.

Marking Vacheron Constantin’s first dashboard watch since 1928, their engineers worked hard to build a holder that would fit into the fascia of the car. Unlike the AP, this has been designed to look more like a pocket watch when taken out of its wooden house. Still, its speedometer-esque minutes display reminds you that it belongs within your car instead of your suit trousers.

As two very expensive, very intricately made dashboard watches are released in close succession of each other, it's clearly a good time to be a collector of watches and cars. And if you're not, it's a good time to start—expect more watch and Roller pairings in the future, as this trend is only just beginning. They're a bit like busses for people who don’t have to take busses; you wait ages for one, then two come along at once.

Originally published on Esquire UK

Metamorphosis is an often risky process—successful examples within the horological context are finely balanced along the double-edged sword of mass opinion. With the release of the Bell & Ross' latest BR 03 collection, however, the brand demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of this balance by preserving the elements that made the collection a cornerstone of the manufacture’s offerings, while paying heed to modern design sensibilities.

The most visible change within the BR 03 is the watch's reduced dimensions. The cosmetic changes are subtle. The case diameter is reduced from 42mm to 41mm, while the lugs have been downsized from 4.5mm to 4mm, contributing to a marked change in the timepiece's wear and presence on the wrist. In an era where smaller watches are once again gaining traction, these changes reflect the brand’s recognition of contemporary watchmaking trends and preferences.

(From left: 2006 BR 03 42mm; 2014 BR 03 42mm; 2023 BR 03 41mm)
The BR 03’s cosmetic changes see its case diameter and lug length reduced.

More significantly, the BR 03 has a new movement under its hood: the BR-CAL.302. Based on the Swiss Sellita SW 300-1, the movement itself is a reflection of the manufacture's delicate balancing act between trends and heritage. While it is (for the most part) still the same reliable, workhorse movement widely used across other Bell & Ross timepieces, it also crucially introduces an extended power reserve of 54 hours—a significant upgrade on the previous 38 hours of power reserve.

The BR 03 may have undergone a subtle metamorphosis in the dimension and movement department, but Bell & Ross has elected to retain the elements that made the BR 03 a success. The 'circle within a square' case shape embellished with screws and highly-legible, flight instrument-inspired font, for example, ensures that the timepiece still possesses much of the tool watch charm that made it a unique design proposition when it first landed in 2006.

BR 03 Black Matte
BR 03 Black Steel
BR 03 Phantom

Offered in two case materials—black ceramic and brushed steel—Bell & Ross offers a choice between a muted, utilitarian look more synonymous with a tool watch, and a more sophisticated, dressier appearance.

Amongst the ceramic offerings, a new union of the matte black ceramic case with a khaki dial and matching rubber strap functions as the manufacture’s homage to its military-inspired design language. As for the polished steel option, the newest kid on the block takes the form of a retro-styled, brushed, copper/salmon dial offering. Engraved, jet black Arabic numerals and indices are paired with eye-catching blued steel hands, with the contrast between the satin-brushed finishing and smooth chamfered edges of the case a refined touch on a handsome timepiece.

Overall, the new edition of the BR 03 is a great horological example of the tricky act of balancing oft-fickle and transient trends, while staying true to brand philosophy.