Markham Fine Jewelers Blog
2016-09-20

While watchmaking technology has been steadily improving for more than five centuries, there always seems to be room for improvement. Today’s finest watchmakers continually push the boundaries when it comes to innovation – offering new and exciting technology, functions and even materials.

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Gold, platinum and steel will forever be forged into watch cases, but today, many brands also take their inspiration from the space, aviation, automotive and medical worlds when it comes to super high-tech materials.

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Among the favorites are engineered ceramics, multiple grades of high-tech titanium, hypoallergenic alloys, aluminium (a derivative of aluminum that can be colored and is super light weight), carbon fiber (a dense yet light-weight material that is super strong thanks to the layering or weaving of thousands of strands of fibers), kevlar and more. Some brands are even working with transparent sapphire to create cases that are virtually see through.

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The point behind these materials is not just to offer an exciting marketing angle, but, more to the point, to offer more durability, more scratch- or shock-resistance and lighter weight. Indeed, the materials used have to meet a clear objective, whether that is achieving a certain color, a certain weight or a certain aesthetic appeal.

Some brands are even building their own alloys of gold that will keep the gold from scratching or wearing in any way. This, of course, makes them even more precious in the long run.

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Additionally, brands are even perfecting the coatings they apply to the materials. Years ago, when one wanted to add a different color to a metal, the piece was bathed in an electroplating process. Today, at the high end of the luxury watch spectrum, a host of coating methods can be employed, including PVD (physical vapor deposition), DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) applications and other methods that make the coating last longer and resist scratching.

We invite you in any time to see our vast array of timepieces that utilize high-tech materials in their cases, bracelets, bezels and straps.

2016-09-13
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First shown to the world during the March BaselWorld exhibition, the Swiss-made Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar watches are in stores now and deserve a close-up look. The new watch is powered by an in-house-made movement (Frederique Constant has 19 Manufacture movements in its repertoire) hand-built in the brand’s Plan-les-Ouates workshops outside of Geneva. Additionally, every one of the 191 parts in the caliber is individually finished.

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The FC-775 automatic movement was in the research and development stages for two years. The end product is one of the easiest to use perpetual calendars on the market. Inset buttons easily adjust the functions (the button near 5:00 advances the moon, the one near 8:00 manipulates the day and date, etc.). Once adjusted, this highly sophisticated mechanism will take into account the months with 30 and 31 days, the 28 days of February and also the leap year cycle with the return of 29 February every four years. It will only need to be adjusted on March 1, 2100, when we skip a scheduled leap year to keep our calendar in sync with time.

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Part of the brand’s Slimline collection, the Perpetual Calendar is at once a robust and reliable timepiece with a strong design aesthetic. Offered in rose gold-plated finish or in stainless steel, the 42mm case sports a sapphire caseback for viewing of the movement. Several dial choices are being offered and the watch is sold in a luxurious wooden box.

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We invite you to stop in any time to see this new Perpetual Calendar watch and to see all of our Frederique Constant timepieces.

2016-09-07
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With Labor Day behind us, it seems to be a signal of oncoming fall – shorter days, earlier nights. This makes it a great time to invest in a watch that tells time in the dark. Luminous watches that don’t look luminous during the day but that glow brightly at night or in the dark took about a century to perfect.

In the early 1900s Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium. It was only a decade or so later that watch companies and dial makers turned to the substance as a luminous aid. Little did they know the dangers involved in using the material, which emits particles that have the effect of ionizing and glowing fluorescent.

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Dial makers developed a radium-based paint and, in 1914, Radium Luminous Materials Corporation began producing the phosphorescent paint for watch hands and markers. Workers would paint the dials and often lick the tip of the brush to get a finer point on it for thinner, more exact lines. They began getting sick from the radiation within the paint and many died. A group of women banned together in the late 1920s and took the company to court, which led to its closing and the implementation of new rules about the material.

Scientists and researchers looked for other options and, in the 1960s, found tritium, which was more harmful than radium, but limits were established on how much could be used in a paint (vintage 1960s watches using this material may have a single or double T on the dial).

Eventually laws prohibited the use of radioactive paint and in the 1990s Super-LumiNova was unveiled. The non-radioactive substance is the material of choice today. It offers a strong glow (in several colors) without the danger. Additionally, the material has been improved over the past 20 years and is brighter today than it was in its original forms. The material glows after absorbing sufficient UV light, and the strength of the glow depends on how many layers of Super-LumiNova are applied.

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Some watch companies also use a new tritium-based system called “Gaseous Tritium Light Source” (GTLS), wherein the material is encased in tiny glass tubes that are placed together to form numerals or markers. This system is brighter than Super-LumiNova but also more expensive and more difficult to execute.

At any rate, now that you know how much research has gone into creating watches with lumen, we invite you to stop in any time and see our great selection of luminous watches.

2016-09-01
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Planning a trip to Paris in September? If so, you may want to visit the 2016 Biennale des Antiquaires that is taking place at the Grand Palais from September 10-18. This year, for the first time ever, the Biennale organizers are working with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) of Geneva to showcase a thematic exhibition based on "The Mastery of Time" book about man's quest to track time.

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While the Biennale transforms the Grand Palais into one of the foremost showcases for art and culture, the new time-themed exhibition is guaranteed to bridge the gap between the past and the future when it comes to timepieces. On display will be artifacts and historical watches that span centuries, including sundials, table clocks, astronomical clocks, pocket watches, automatons and more. Additionally, master craftsmen and watchmakers will be on hand throughout the exhibit.

Atomic Clock

Credits: All images courtesy of FHH.

2016-08-30
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Recently, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) released its July export statistics, and while the overall numbers weren’t on a roll, the U.S. market came out on top. For nearly a decade, the Asian markets — led by Hong Kong — were the largest consumers of Swiss watches, with the U.S. not too far behind.

However, with tough economic times in Asia, the United States unseated Hong Kong as the top importer of Swiss watches — accounting for 10.9 percent of all Swiss watch exports during the month of July (10.7 percent of the exports that month went to Hong Kong). The last time the United States held this top spot was nine years ago.

2016-08-25

We often get questions about which type of watch strap is the best. The truth of the matter is that first and foremost, this is a personal choice. However, the longevity of your strap has a lot to do with outside influences that include activity, use, climate and temperature. Here, we give you a simple guide to determining whether you want rubber, leather, fabric or metal on your wrist.

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Rubber
If you are a water person who indulges frequently in swimming a rubber strap may be the best choice. Rubber weathers the elements beautifully. It dries quickly after getting out of the water and does not stick to the wrist. Additionally, rubber does not fade or lose its luster or hue. Many of today’s vulcanized rubber straps are blends of polycarbonate and other materials to keep them at top performance levels without getting dry or brittle.

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Leather
If you are thinking about a watch for the office, where the air is conditioned, a leather strap is a good choice. Leather straps are comfortable to wear and give a great choice in hides, textures and color. Leather choices range from calfskin and ostrich to stingray, crocodile, alligator, snake and more. Leather is relatively easy to take care of in the right temperatures, but – in heat and humidity – these straps tend to get a bit sticky on the wrist.

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Fabric/NATO
Fabric straps come in all types. For women, a fabric strap is typically reserved for dress watches and is made of shimmering materials such as silk, satin, even lace. These materials can stain, although most brands protect their fabric with a special treatment. For men, the fabric watch strap predominantly comes in the form of a NATO strap. Easily one of the hottest trends on the market today, NATO straps convert any watch from serious to sporty with ease. Sometimes referred to as military straps, NATO straps have roots dating back to the early 1970s when British soldiers used nylon straps that were highly durable, could be easily cleaned and were not expensive to buy. NATO straps are easy to change and usually slip through the top lugs, pass over the case back and though the bottom lugs. The system acts as double security, too, because one need not worry about spring bars breaking or popping as with typical straps. They are very durable and highly functional, as they dry quickly, don’t stick to the wrist and are designed for extreme wear.

Various Styles of Metal Watch Bracelets

Metal
Another material good for water sports and sticky temperatures, metal bracelets are typically extremely sturdy. Of course, we are not talking about gold bracelets (those can scratch easily and are designed mostly for office and dress wear). Bracelets made of stainless steel, titanium and other alloys are strong and hold up well in outdoor terrains and activities. Titanium is very lightweight, and many people in warm climates prefer this feel on the wrist. With today’s technology, steel and titanium can also be found in a host of colors thanks to PVD and other coating treatments. One of the nice things about bracelet watches is that they are easy to care for — they can be rinsed and cleaned with a soft cloth. The downside: depending on the material, they can scratch.

In the end, the choice of material for your watch strap comes down to your lifestyle and your own personal taste.

2016-08-23
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History buffs and watch lovers alike will be intrigued by a very special pocket watch coming up for sale this week that was purchased in 1841 by Abraham Lincoln as a wedding gift for Mary Todd. While Todd never received the watch, you can — if you go to the Baltimore Art & Antiques Show (August 25-28) where it is being put up for sale for $175,000.

The 18-karat gold and blue enamel pocket watch is studded with diamonds and is a solid example of mid-19th century matchmaking. Currently owned by Gotta Have It! Collectibles Inc., the watch has had several owners over the years and is being sold with documentation showing its provenance, as well as a gift letter, original box and key.

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When Lincoln and Mary Todd were to be married, he purchased the watch as a gift for her and had the inside back cover engraved with the words: “To Miss Mary Todd from A.L. 1841.” However, their original engagement was broken and he later gave the watch to a friend, Mary Curtis, in an impromptu gesture.

Curtis took the watch home thinking Lincoln bought it for her and then saw the inscription. The recounting of the events note that Curtis was heartbroken and put the watch in a trunk, where it remained for 30 years. Near death, she gifted it to a friend in 1872. The watch has sold several times since, each time rising in the price paid. It is a grand example of how timepieces with provenance hold and increase their value.

2016-08-18
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Summer activities, especially water sports, can be hard on the wristwatch — and its crystal. The crystal is the clear cover that goes over the dial and protects it. Depending on what that crystal is made of, it can get scratched or even broken if hit too hard. It is a good idea to know what sort of crystal your watch, or the watch you are thinking of buying, is equipped with.

There are typically three main types of crystals used in watches: sapphire crystal, mineral crystal and hesalite crystal. The one your watch features is often reflected in the retail price of the watch.  Here, we take a look at each material individually.

Sapphire crystals:
Sapphire crystals are the preferred choice in luxury watches because they are extremely strong and scratch resistant. They are also the more expensive of the three crystal choices. While this crystal is called sapphire, it should be noted that it is not made from naturally mined sapphire. Instead, the crystals are created as a synthetic compound — and hold the same properties as its natural counterpart.

The process of producing sapphires synthetically was invented in 1893 by French chemist Auguste Victor Louis Verneuil, and shared with the world in 1902. It's formal name is the Verneuil Process, but is more commonly referred to as flame fusion. Essentially, a long column of synthetic sapphire is manufactured in a special furnace using powdered aluminum oxide particles. When they reach temperatures over 2000 degrees Celsius, they melt and then fuse with one another to re-crystallize in a new column form.

The column  is then sliced (with diamond-tipped cutters) to a specific millimeter of thickness and polished to become a watch crystal. Sapphire crystals, as mentioned, are more able to resist scratching and breakage. Anti-reflective coatings can be added to both sides of the crystal without any hazing.

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Mineral Glass Crystals:
Generally a mineral crystal is an ordinary glass crystal that has been heat treated or chemically treated to withstand scratches. However, it is not as scratch-resistant as sapphire and is, therefore, typically used in mid-priced watches where cost is a factor (as mineral glass is less expensive to use than sapphire crystal). Under extreme hot or cold conditions – if the glass is bluntly hit on a certain angle – the glass can crack or shatter. The main benefit to mineral glass crystal lies in its price.

Hesalite Crystals:
Also referred to as plastic crystals, Plexiglas, or acrylic crystals, these are the least expensive option and are most commonly found on lower-priced wristwatches. Plastic will not shatter or crack, but it scratches very easily.

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2016-08-17
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Cartier is renowned for its incredible clock work over the centuries. Easily the most coveted Cartier clocks are the Mystery Clocks, see-through clocks that are generally showcased in rock crystal and other clear materials. What makes them magical is that the hands seem to float in space – telling the time without any apparent link to the movement. Now, Cartier has managed to miniaturize the Mystery Clock and turn it into a stunning new wristwatch: the Rotonde de Cartier Astromysterieux Caliber 9462 MC.

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Although it is not the first Cartier Mystery wristwatch (others include the Mysterious Hour and Mysterious Double Tourbillon), it does offer a new feat in a style only Cartier could achieve. The mechanical manual-wind movement, Caliber 9462 MC Astromystérieux complication, is entirely visible in the dial portion of the mystery watch — where typically only the hands appear.

Indeed, the central tourbillon cage seems to float in space. Essentially from the crown to the center there is the barrel, main gear train, balance and escapement — all performing a complete rotation in one hour so the the hands (on the escapement) make their 60-minute rotation around the dial to mark time. The watch holds three patents and is one of the most complicated pieces to build.

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From the outside looking in through the sapphire crystals, very little of the 408-part caliber (including 188 balls) is seen. Additionally, the space dedicated to the movement’s non-visible gears and components (beneath the tiny outer dial) has been reduced by Cartier’s master watchmakers to the barest minimum – offering a grand-scale work of art and technology. Just 100 pieces of the Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux Caliber 9462 MC will be made, cased in palladium. While these watches are incredibly difficult to get one's hands on, they nonetheless demonstrate Cartier's on-going commitment to fine Swiss matchmaking at the highest level.

2016-08-10
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As any true watch lover knows, the finest sport chronograph watches typically have a host of added functions that offer useful information. Most of them come in the form of meters – not to be confused with depth. Here, we bring you a look at some of those added instruments that could make your summer watch purchase even more fun.

Tachymeter
Much like a car’s speedometer, a tachymeter measures speed, as averaged over a certain distance. Generally, the tachymeter is indicated on the watch via an outside bezel (or sometimes via an outer ring on the dial) that is divided into equal increments. The wearer uses the chronograph to start/stop the event being measured, and then reads the chronograph seconds hand to determine the average speed.

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Telemeter
Working similarly to the tachymeter, the telemeter feature of a chronograph measures distance. This measurement is usually used to calculate the approximate distance between the user and an event that can be seen and heard (such as a lightning or thunder). It does this by using the speed of sound. Essentially, the wearer starts the chronograph when the event is seen and stops it when its sound is heard. The seconds hand is then pointing to the telemeter scale value that approximates the distance from the wearer and the event.

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Pulsometer
Perhaps best loved by doctors and medical personnel, the pulsometer does exactly what it sounds like. It measures the heartbeat. It is an easy tool to use. Generally the wearer starts the watch at the sound, or feel, of the pulse. He or she then counts a short number of pulsations or beats (generally 15 or 30) and then stops the chronograph. The number that the seconds hand points to on the pulsometer scale reflects the corresponding number of heart beast per minute. Essentially, using the watch just takes the multiplication out of normal calculations and does it for you.

Stop in any time to see our wide assortment of chronographs with added meter functions. They can be addicting.

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