Monday, 29 June 2009

gnashing of teeth at... uhm teething issues and deplorable QC

Ok so u just bought the latest n greatest complication from company X who has trumpeted its new technical marvel developed by their in-house crack team of experts or a wunderkind genius n u bring it home wif much joy n a much lighter wallet (horological wizardy does not come cheap) and then...

it breaks down....................

After the initial tsunami of dissapointment has passed, with the repeated exclamation 'why the fudge does my $X0k (or worse $x00k) watch not work rite, when a g-shock can do the same for $x0?!!?' u simmer down, put down the hammer that u had picked up ready to destroy said crap product n think of a better way forward :) [of course no hammers were involved, who'd be daft enough to strike a watch they've put soo much moolah into rite? :)]

U send it back to the AD u bought it from who expresses shock n horror at the problem (even though they've seen a lot of clients with similar problems wif the same brand/watch calibre before, a fact that they didn't look to share when they were selling you the watch) and they assure u they will get it sorted asap. But the watch has to go back to Switzerland of course n that will take some time (noting customs clearance for the AD, lots of other watches being serviced and those that are ahead in the queue, and there are some who can jump the queue but you aren't important enuff for them to flex their muscle for it etc)

U wait a few weeks, which turn into a few months... U wonder how it could be that u forked over so much for a watch that is spending so much time out of your hands when u could hv bought watches A, B & C instead which your mates have n have proven to be reliable timekeepers so far.

But u finally get the watch back n you are happy again. It was a watch u fell in love with, enough to fork out a fair amount of change for. Aesthetics, romanticism, concept, coolness ahhhh... fallen for it hook line and sinker... or lock, stock and two smoking barrels ;)

all is well in your world again. the birds are chirping a merry tune outside the window. spring is in the air... your watch works as how the watch house marketing Gods claim it should in ads...
for awhile...

Then it starts gettin a little cranky, actin up a little... workin fine some of the time or jus refusin to work right some other times. Thats just not acceptable is it now? So back to Switzerland it goes again... U cursing ever having bought it... but 'u wait and wait and wait in Casablanca'... oops wrong tale... u wait and wait and hope it comes back as good as what they said it would be and wait and wait and wait...
~ fin ~

check it
the short tale above is just that... a story... but not an uncommon one, well at least not in the circles i roll in. a number of my watch collecting mates have similar stories with some variations. some have to send the watch back 1 time and its fixed and some 6 times! yes u read right 6 $$#*%%$@ times! and some have to always send the watch from a certain brand back once before it works as per how it should have in the first place...

be it new innovative timekeepers or qc issues, be it a small boutique firm, independent or a big haute horlogerie name, one would hope they get their acts right before selling their pricey watches to us.

so for the watch companies, some words of advice (if anyone cares n is listening)
(1) trumpet the fact that u will service every watch ever made by your brand(even through ownership changes) and stand by that
(2) get your QC up to scratch so that no (or a very very very small infinitesimal number of) watches leave your manufactures/factories not as right as they should be
(3) place greater weight on prioritisation of the repair of watches based on how 'young' they are from date of purchase, meaning the younger they are the faster they should be addressed.
(4) get more or train more staff dedicated to fixing and servicing stuff. This is worth investing in..
(5) do more testing on new calibres to ensure reliability before releasing any watch with them in it for sale (yes testing and not posing in the advertisements, if you please)
(6) let people know how u r going to ensure long term servicing... this one is tough though...

some pointers for the watch buyers then
- do your research on the watch you want to buy BEFORE u buy it. if there are loadsa stories of issues with a particular brand/watch then... well... where theres smoke theres often fire. u just gotta figure if its something u're willing to live with
- don't believe everything the watch company people tell u eg. Highest level of QC, tested minimum x hours(or to get clarity check if its the movement tested on its own or the cased watch or both that goes through controls test), chronometer grade... yada yada yada
- smaller houses hv less time n resources but the problem is true for both small and big houses... some questions though between small and big are...
> mass produced but better qc vs small manufactures with limited resource to perform extensive qc?
> mass produced with good control on suppliers or even able to make everything on their own or small business which outsources all its parts to folks to provide them?
- the more complicated the watch the more things can go wrong with it. so if u r getting a complicated watch u may just want to entrust the $ to more established folks (note: the more established folks do get this wrong too on occasion) OR wait a few years for a new calibre to have its problems sorted out before buying one.

to end off, i will say that i have been pretty blessed in my purchases. and sometimes pre-owned watches have advantages... 1 being that the 1st owner may have sorted out the issues with the watch so that i didn't have to... whatever the case, enjoy your watch purchase and caveat emptor :)

cheers, raph

ps. i just noticed something... a post with not one picture... amazing :) haha

Sunday, 28 June 2009

on my travels i have seen most interesting things...

internet travels that is... some watches of note in my surfing this past week... and some comments...


MBF 2 for Only Watch... Very Nice... collaboration between MB&F and Sage Vaughn, US artist/painter
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sadly mbf doesn't seem to be doing well on the pre-owned market... the mb&f rose gold hm1 sold for a very low... less than S$75k inclusive of buyers premium at an antiquorum auction in 27jun09 (note the list was s$270+k n after discounts i believe they all sold for around s$150k (on average). the auction price done was also below estimate and this after being featured in the press release for the promotion of the auction)
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a new freakie for only watch... get your freak on...
get your freak on... get your freak on...
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cabestan... a lovely piece... i prefer it in the darker metals or
rose gold myself but this is nice too...
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mr journe has come out with a new perpetual calendar... nice execution off the octa line and of course the innovativeness of having the movements being relatively the same thickness regardless of complication continues... hats off to a great living watch maker...
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JLC is standing up and doing it in style... ultra complicated and cool... aesthetically, its ok for me but i think in the metal it would be amazing :) the Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica the World’s Most Complicated Wristwatch 44mmx15mm means its chunky and a whopping 1,300!!! parts.

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Westminster Chimes, Grande Sonnerie, Petit Sonnerie, silent mode, minute repeater, flying tourbillon, perpetual calendar, instantaneous jumping digital hours, minutes, days retrograde, months retrograde, date retrograde, display of the leap year, inertia blocking; tone power reserve, mainspring power reserve, time setting in steps of one hour and minute by one minute jumps, clockwise and counterclockwise... i'm out of breath :)
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this one is not so good... gyrotourby with added stuff...
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oh dearie me... this won't do... it seems richard mille is taking a leaf out of audemars piguet and milking their sporty chrono for all its worth, coming out with green, red versions and God knows what other color variations... the wrong way to go...
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this is sooo bad... it looks like a replica RM
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audemars piguet interestingly may have done a bit of a u turn... they came out with the bumblebee which tops a number of their so called limited edition offshores so in a way its an LE killer ;)
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reminds me of this wonderful AP ROO LE of course :)
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and lastly... a patek chrono that came up for auction recently... the only reason i am posting a pic of it and highlighting the fact is because its quite simply... beautiful... enjoy your watch surfing ;)
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Saturday, 27 June 2009

the watch as art...

now a lot of times theres a lot of bs out there about this watch is art, that watch is art... every d@mn watch with a ludicrous price tag is art... well, a lot of it as noted, is a hot steaming pile of BS and one just has to be a bit more discerning and cut thru the marketing hyperbole and superlatives hype etc etc etc... and with the super high margins seen in some brands offerings, you must understand that the people selling this 'art' to you are masters of the art of BS. they are the ice sellers to the eskimos... the air-conditioner salesmen to northen alaskan dwellers ;) but they razzle dazzle you instead with concepts, false innovations, and emotive dark arts... their magick is potent allowing for a $500 watch to sell for $15-30k. or a $1000 watch sell for $50k.


the following watches though are different. they have poetry and they have soul and they have it in abundance. concept, innovation, dreams realised... pure beauty and works of horological art in my book. i hope u enjoy the pics. cheers, raph

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"so what camera do you use?"

i get asked this question a fair bit and i don't mind sharing at all. of course my hope is people ask because some of the shots i have taken turn out half decent and they're thinking 'if i can have the same equipment as raph then maybe i can take half decent or better shots too' :) which is all fine by me. i am not a pro-photographer and don't have aspirations to be one and i am no grand master with any big photo taking secrets. i am happy taking my semi-decent shots of the things and people that i love and things that i wish to capture in my images & thats good enough for me :)

so on to the question then man... 'what hardware do you have? and why?' ok here goes...

1) canon digital ixus 700 - most of the photos on my blog taken in 07 and 08 was with this camera. it served me well and also because i took a lot of the pics in a well lighted place, some of the shots turned out nice... good light helps give good pics with p&s

a contender in the tempus photo competition in 2007
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2) fujifilm f31fd - i had heard SOOOO much hype about this that when i first got it it was a bit of a letdown compared to my trusty canon ;) [i am talkin about the camera... why would i be comparin this to... oh nevermind...] but it has proven to be all the good and bad things said about it and is one of the best point and shoots ever. a legend and if u r not a believer that its a legend then google and you will be...you will be (sorry couldn't help but quote yoda there ;)

3) and for the answer that most folks are interested in... my dslr... the nikon d90 - i had started out looking at the d90 and the canon 5dmkii. 2 different brands and different pros and cons and two different formats. one was aps-c - a crop sensor with 1.5* focal length multiplication and another was a full frame sensor (based on 35mm film cameras as standard). i think very little divides nikon and canon. both are great brands with great lenses and their own adv and disadv...

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d90
whats good?
- good pentaprism viewfinder and bright, clear and nice lcd.
- live view and video recording (not the best video recording tool but usable)
- very good iso performance to me. the dxo sensor test also show it beating the d300 on iso and sensor quality...
- came wif an excellent kit lens, the 18-105mm vr. a great walkabout lens with good range and essential vr
- can af for lenses without built in motors
crop sensor pros
- gives u more zoom power with the 1.5* focal magnifier. eg a 200mm lens on it is 300mm
- more lenses to choose from, dx and fx lenses
- everythings lighter and less costly with dx
Cons
- less resolution than FF and less high ISO capabilities than FF.

full frame
pros (reference cons in crop sensor)
- better details and resolving power ie image resolution
- more usable shots with high iso (question is how often do u need to shoot in high iso? and this could also be made up by having fast lenses to a degree)
Cons
- u will need good fast glass to bring the most out of it n that will cost a lot n will most likely weigh a fair bit too...this could also take the fun out of it all... lugging heavy kilos of pricey stuff around and when they spoil the fixing cost is also gonna be a lot.

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with my watch shots, i use the Best macro lens for me at least - nikor 105mm af-d
- u dont need vr on macros and its more than half the price of the vr version
- much better working distance than the also super sharp 60mm macro Nikkor
- i tried the tamron 90mm f2.8 and that sucks soo badly compared to the nikor 105mm for the shots i take...

The killer primes - creamy duo which take great pics...

Sigma 30mm f1.4 - amazing Bokeh. There are some focus inaccuracies for me (which may be more about me playing wif too shallow dof than the lens) but when u get it right u can take amazing shots even wif low skill levels. super creamy and a great lens.
Some people say it should be the nikon 35mm f1.8 over this but i hv spoken 2 several folks(veterans, sellers) and the sigma is the winner and honestly there is a huge difference between 1.8 & 1.4.
50mm is considered the normal focal length on 35mm film. however based on the frames diagonal length, normal should actually be about 43mm. so the 30mm fast large aperture sigma 1.4 rules! 30mm * 1.5 = a normal 45mm J

Nikon 50mm f1.4 - accurate af. very decent ca control. Can be slightly soft at 1.4 but good centre sharpness from f1.6/1.8. Wonderful bokeh too to me but i think the 50mm sigma would beat this having seen what the 30mm can do. Coz of crop factor, its a 75mm f1.4 which is sorta my equivalent to the 85mm f1.4 on FF although that lens would cost about 4x more(S$400 vs S$1600) and weigh 2.5* more. slight flaring/ghosting issues so a hood is a good idea for this fiddy ;)

The 1.8 v 1.4 difference - I dun understand them charts i jus know that when i had the 1.8, i used it a bit and it didn't impress me at all and I sold it after a few months. The 1.4 though is a great lens and has helped me take some shots that i am really happy with and it'll be with me for awhile(especially if the next part happens :)

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i may go full frame one day though...perhaps with the release of the d800
the current d700 is the full frame camera i am eyeing so when the d800 comes out, that will probably be the one to consider IF I ever want to go FF. The d800 SHOULD have a higher megapixel count, good usable ISO range, good fps rate, full HD video movie mode, superior noise control, loadsa af sensors...

for usable low light pics, a fast lens and high iso will allow u to take good shots too for the following situations: indoors available / natural light, night street photos, places where flash photog is not cool eg. museums, or where it'll disturb the folks around...

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the last word
its actually not so much about the equipment. get a decent dslr set and 2 to 3 decent lenses and you're pretty much good to go. reading and learning about how to take the shots u want to take. buff up your shooting technique and skills, noting composition and what it is you want to say with the photo are whats more important imo...

it becomes more about the person holding the camera then, as the photos u take and share should be all yours... to tell a story, to share beauty, to capture joy, to exploring darker themes or showing nature, to displaying different seasons... let it be about your expression or sharing the world in your eyes and whatever it is, enjoy your photography... as i do :)

cheers, raph

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Thursday, 18 June 2009

lusting after a hot american ;)

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now of course for the watch lovers amongst u, u would know that i wasn't talkin about the lady in the picture and for the REAL watch lovers amongst u, u r right now going 'what lady?' because all you can see is...
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THIS! the Vacheron Constantin 1921 American
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but before i begin my rave about this watch, i would like to thank the fine folks at vacheron constantin ably led by david heng for asia and the folks from cortina for the invite to this very nice dinner affair at mimolette...

my dinner companions for the night were stefano and jim and we had a fine time talkin about watches and life :) the singer and the jazz band were outstanding and the food was decent and most importantly the watches were excellent... this years watches from VC were really nice in the metal, none more so than the american and the simple classy traditionelle with subsidiary seconds. for some strange reason, the patrimony chrono never made it round to our table and I am not even sure if it was there... its a shame if it was and i missed it but the good thing from that is i have one less watch to lust after ;) hope to see it someday though... ok, enough rambling... some words and pics from the nite follow...

a screen in front of the dining area and where i was facing most of the nite... Photobucket

bombarding me with the following images... making me salivate :p this picture in particular was calling out to me wif a siren song... Photobucket

the patrimony traditionelle in 38mm was also calling out...
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the chrono... a very nicely executed piece was vying for my attention too...
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and the new in-house movement from vc powering the american and traditionelle 4400
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the talented singer from the nite... joanna dong... good set of pipes and ably supported by a good band... nice lite jazzy numbers (for more info checkout www.joannadong.com )

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my wonderful dinner companions, stefano and jim... lots of great stories of life and watches. thanks for the wonderful evening gents
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again... the watches calling out for my attention :)
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this looked perfect on the male models wrist... he was kind enough to inform us that its listed at S$23,100... a very decent price...
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all of us really liked the american... jim trying it on his wrist and wishing for an enamel version already... so were many of us, but the pricing would go up a fair bit if it was...
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just a very beautiful watch.. the crown at 130 position for traditional timepieces... the dial in this manner as, if u wore this on your left hand and your hand was on a steering wheel, you would read the time off straight on... very nice...
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stefano strapping it on too...
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me wishing that when they said dessert was served, they were talking about the watch...
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the movement in the american is the same as whats in the patrimony traditionelle 4400...
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a beautiful classic timepiece... a very strong contender for folks interested in that other brands simple watches... (u know which one i'm talkin bout yuh... starts with c and rhymes with balaclava? ;)
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a nice booklet was provided on the goodness of the seal... i like it
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have to thank the fine folks from cortina and vacheron again... twas a fine nite...
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a very nice and thoughtful gift from vacheron constantin too to cap it off... a big loupe to stare at our watch mechanisms :)
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the inspiration for the american...
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and a last short of the star of the night... priced a bit steep though at list of S$39,600
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hope u enjoyed the post and are calling your ADs to book some VCs :) cheers, raph

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