Riedenschild Original DarkSea Multi Mechanical Watch
a WatchCarefully Review
C. Bradley Jacobs – November 2007
Riedenschild Original has once again delivered a tremendous product aimed at the market for gadget-loving aficionados of bold, modern mechanical watches. The DarkSeaMulti automatic (ref. 1113) is a tour de force, with a massive steel case and bracelet, textured black dial, luminous hands, rotating inner dive bezel and canteen-style locking crown cap. As with every watch from Riedenschild Original, the styling is distinctive, but this watch incorporates many quality elements and signature touches that set it apart from other watches in its price class.
The Multi is so called because it is an elaboration on the theme established by Riedenschild's ground-breaking DarkSea Diver, a time-and-date automatic dive watch with dual canteen crown protectors. The Multi offers additional features such as day display, pushers for keeping track of the month & year, and a 24-hour indicator. The 20-jewel automatic movement includes a hacking feature and is nicely, though not elaborately, decorated with Geneva waves and the company name engraved upon the rotor.
The stainless steel case, a generous 45 mm wide (53 mm crown-to-crown-lock) and 20mm thick, is fitted with sapphire crystals to protect the front from scratches and to safely expose the movement to view. The substantial steel bracelet and a set of hefty rubber straps attach via hex screws threaded through the lugs. More than half of the bracelet links are removable, making size adjustment very precise. The straps are quite sturdy and are embossed with brand and model logos near their attachment points.
A limited edition piece, the DarkSeaMulti is water-resistant to 10 atmospheres and, like all models from Riedenschild, is assembled in Germany according to rigorous DIN quality standards. MSRP is $475, available in North America through the brand's network of on-line retailers and a rapidly growing number of US-based stores (for info visit www.Riedenschild.com).
The DarkSeaMulti is quite a gadget for the price and will suit the desk diver seeking something distinctive--especially with the scuba tank packaging and accessories such as a handy hex key to facilitate swapping the bracelet for the straps provided. In addition to their impressive two-year guarantee, Riedenschild Original's little touches--signed strap buckle, solid bracelet links all around, polished case screws, logo crowns--help complete a thorough package for the price. This brand has really targeted a specific market, and they appear to be delivering well above expectations.
Text and images © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com
Blue Pearl Chronograph
A WatchCarefully Review
27 April 2007
Newcomer brand Riedenschild Original, based in Germany, has introduced another appealing design: the Blue Pearl chronograph, a stainless steel hand-winding two-register model (Ref. 1115-02-S14). Housed in an attractive screw-back case with a bold Teutonic personality, the watch features a white and blue dial with fantastic legibility and some lovely details. Elements such chapter rings, applied hour markers, numerals and text in blue nicely accent a stark white dial reminiscent of enamel pocket chronographs of past decades. Elegant blued-steel hands complete the visual package as seen through the sapphire crystal.
The steel case, rated at 50 meters resistance, features unique rectangular chronograph pushers and a large, easily grasped crown. A case back nicely engraved with the brand’s logo indicates also that this is an edition limited to 999 pieces. A sturdy bracelet of the 7-row style is attached via solid end-pieces and is secured with a signed flip-lock clasp. The bracelet length is ample for the large-wristed and size is adjustable via four settings on the clap and nine removable links. German-made leather straps are also available. Dimensions of the watch are 40 mm diameter—without crown—and fully 35 mm of dial diameter; 12 mm thickness; lug and bracelet width are a constant 20 mm; lug-to-lug length is approximately 47.5 mm.
The movement in this watch is provided by a new company called Gematic. Information from Riedenschild indicates that the movement in this Blue Pearl model is the first movement of many envisioned for the Gematic product line. Their hand-wound chronograph caliber is a modern update of the iconic Venus 175, now also being produced by Sea-Gull in China. Gematic receives their raw movements from a Japanese manufacturer and according to Riedenschild Director Dr. James Newell, the movement installed in the Blue Pearl is remarkably reliable and keeps better time than many other mechanical movements they have evaluated. Contrary to the experience of owners of similar movements from other makers, quality has not been an issue—Riedenschild’s rigorous testing ensures this. Winding and setting of the Blue Pearl’s movement is very smooth and its accuracy, though not electronically tested by this correspondent, appears to be well within expectations. Dr. Newell reported that future plans for the Reidenschild/Gematic partnership include introducing “a decorated hand-wind to replace the movement in the Blue Pearl, and another decorated hand wind with a swan bridge regulator.” Some COSC-certified chronometer movements are also in the pipeline.
The watch is delivered in an attractive black leather box with sporty red stitching. The brand’s logo is printed on the inside of the lid, which snaps shut to protect the timepiece wrapped around a soft pillow within. A two-year guarantee against defects accompanies each Riedenschild timepiece. The MSRP (USA) of this watch is $479; the Blue Pearl chronograph with leather straps is $469. All Riedenschild watches are hand-assembled by master craftsmen in Germany who follow DIN-certified processes to ensure quality. Dial designs of their watches are all exclusive, and are overseen by renowned designer Oliver Wolf.
A Blue Pearl automatic model with Swiss movement is also available, as are Black Pearl chronograph and automatic models with 18k rose gold-plated case and black dial. More information on these watches and dealer locations can be found at www.Riedenschild.com. For US pricing, model info and purchasing portal, visit this site.
Having just enjoyed successful exhibition at Inhorgenta in Munich, Riedenschild is planning further exposure in new markets, including the US, where they will be displaying their products at the annual JCK show. Future projects include an extreme-depth dive watch, various aviators’ models and some diamond watches for ladies.
Text and images © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com
SARO-Gem BuonGusto 43
A WatchCarefully Review
Most readers of watch magazines and on-line discussion boards are well aware of the majority of brands of mechanical watch on the market. Every now and then, however, it is exciting to discover a new line of watches from a brand that has snuck under the radar. For this writer, SARO-Gem, of Bettlach, Switzerland is one of these brands. I have only recently been introduced to its products and feel honored to have been given the opportunity by one of the brand’s executives to examine and review their limited edition BuonGusto 43 Jubilé chronograph (Ref. 432231.112028).
SARO-Gem’s roots lie with the von Burg family, current owner of the brand, who have been affiliated with the watch industry for nearly a century. Since 1982, the year of the brand’s founding, they have been building watches using Swiss suppliers exclusively. The name SARO is an acronym of Sapphire Round Over, the idea and processes conceived by company president Rolf von Burg as a method of making and protecting a beautiful watch. During the quarter century since the brand’s inception, they have registered many patents for their processes and have focused on the use of high-quality materials and the most modern techniques, thereby maintaining high quality and reliability. In 2006, SARO-Gem opened, in New York City, their luxury timepieces sales office for U.S. and Canada. According to Rolf von Burg, “Although we always have and always will offer standard models for distribution, our entry into the North American market brings our limited production models to a new audience. SARO-Gem customized watches are unique - customers can choose from thousands of variations because each unit is hand-assembled at the factory.” The company’s current models consist of the Carat, Carat AQ, Integral Dome, Cube, Excellence, and the BuonGusto 43 Jubilee Chronograph line.
The BuonGusto 43 Jubilé is a watch with a multitude of unusual and compelling features including two-tone case elements, diamond hour markers, a gold-flecked night sky dial, and a bracelet capped with patterned scratch-proof tiles. If this sounds like a busy mixture, I understand your reaction because my sentiments lie in the same direction (less is often more, after all) but this watch, with its myriad design elements pulls everything together nicely.
Before elaborating upon what it is that make this watch so remarkably different than other automatic chronographs on the market, let’s examine some of the features that make it worth consideration on the basis of general expectations. The watch is a modern size (43 mm diameter, thus the model designation) and utilizes a bold steel water-resistant (to 50M) case with sapphire crystals front and back. The bracelet features a hidden butterfly clasp, solid 22 mm end-pieces, and several removable links. A smooth-running and accurate 25-jewel Valjoux 7750 Platinum version—the industry standard for automatic chronographs—provides power. The dial features luminous paint for the hour markers and all the hands save that of the small seconds register. The date window is located where the 4:00 marker normally resides and it is nicely framed.
What makes this watch exceptional is a veritable shopping list of interesting features. The model reviewed and pictured herein incorporates a pleasing blend of three colors: silver, blue and black. Beginning with the dial, and working out to case elements and then the bracelet, it is clear that the brand’s designers have taken their objective of creating a distinctive luxury chronograph seriously. The stunning dial is a deep enamel blue, to which gold dust is added to create a night sky effect. Each dial is therefore unique and is carefully baked and printed with finely textured silver lettering. Baguette settings hold the eight diamonds in place; each watch is also accompanied by an appraisal report from the International Gemological Institute which describes not only the watch but also the grade of the diamonds, including cut, color and clarity.
According to SARO-Gem’s US Vice President of Sales, the case is hand-milled and the end-pieces of the bracelet are hand-milled, attached by soldering iron, and then baked to the case. All steel parts are INOX and the black finish on some components of this example is processed PVD. The case construction is modular and allows for gold or steel or color-coated parts such as the case back, chronograph pushers, and the narrow band between the bezel and case to be interchanged at assembly. SARO-Gem’s print and on-line catalogs (at www.saro-gem-usa.com) show a multitude of options available within this model line. Water resistance is ensured by dual gasket rings at the stem and by precision-machined case parts and the entire construction was designed with ease of servicing in mind.
The most interesting element visually is perhaps the scratchproof sapphire tiles that sit atop the thin steel bracelet links. Making these sapphire plates in correct dimensions to fit the bracelet requires roughly 60 steps, and any gold or palladium is added in a vacuum. The example shown here includes inset stripes of 18k white gold whose cresent-moon motif is etched in a separate process. Finally, these tiles are applied with a special glue which can expand and contract long after being assembled--800 pounds of pull force won't remove a plate from the band. SARO-Gem rightly asserts that the resulting radiance and reflection give the appearance of mirror polish with the advantage of being virtually scratch-proof. The company also claims that the use of the sapphire and steel combination allows not only strength and scratch resistance but, based upon customer feedback, dissipates body heat which can make traditional steel bracelets uncomfortable or damage traditional leather or rubber straps. SARO-Gem correspondence indicated that “customers have found a great difference in wearing the watch and attributed that to the band and overall feel.” Also of note is the fact that the removable bracelet links are each numbered sequentially.
The elaborate construction of these components could falsely give the reader a sense that this is a bulky and uncomfortable watch; this is far from the truth. The bracelet is a mere 2.5 mm thick and it tapers in width from 22 mm at the case to 16 mm at the clasp. The watch itself is under 14 mm thick and utilizes a domed crystal and curves on the case sides, bezel and back to achieve an aesthetically very pleasing appearance of trimness. On this particular model, the dark dial and case components also add to the sense of compactness making this a watch easily worn even by watch enthusiasts whose wrists are not bulky. It is a svelte and sexy timepiece.
This example watch was not tested for accuracy, but periodic comparisons with the official US government on-line clock showed no noticeable deviations over more than 48 hours—the timekeeping appears to be roughly within chronometer standards under normal conditions. Luminosity of the hands and markers is excellent. Perhaps the most impressive feature of this watch is the 10-year guarantee which covers the movement, case, bracelet and gemstones. As one would expect for a watch with MSRP of around $8500 US, the packaging is top-notch and each model is individually numbered on the case back. A two-tone leather-upholstered inner box is embossed in gold with the brand name. The cardboard outer box also contained the appraisal, diamond certificate, warranty card and descriptive literature.
This is a distinctive timepiece, aimed at the connoisseur of gemstones and fine timepieces, as well as the watch lover who seeks something unlikely to be spotted on another man’s wrist. The BuonGusto’s combination of stunning dial elements with high-tech construction and scratch-proof components make it unique among its peers in the luxury chronograph market. SARO-Gem US is located at:
1040 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10018
Text and some images © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com; other images provided by SARO-Gem
A WatchCarefully Review
25 June 2008
One of the latest Riedenschild Original watches to be powered by a Gematic movement is the bold pilot-style AdvanceProDate (Ref. 1116/02). The young brand from Germany started out with a variety of movement supplied from noteworthy manufacturers worldwide, but has recently been focussing on using Swiss ébauches, modified in Germany, to motivate its products. This new timepiece features a very thin, high-quality automatic which will be described presently. But first, some details of the overall design and quality of this watch.
Measuring an appealing 40 mm wide, the relatively narrow bezel of this sturdy stainless steel watch serves to emphasize the strength of the matte black dial and rehaut. The contrast between these surfaces and the glossy, luminous numerals and markers, as well as the polished and luminous hands, makes the entire ensemble eminently readable. The brand name and other text on the dial, though partially printed in somewhat large font, does not show such marked contrast and is consequently not a distraction when quickly reading the time from this watch. A long seconds hand makes timing events or simply taking accurate readings quite easy. The date window is unobtrusively tucked up near the 3:00 marker and is easily found but also easily overlooked when not needed.
Riedenschild has chosen a classic case shape, and one that is appropriate for a traditional pilot's-style wristwatch. To it they have added some appealing individual touches: a signed crown with black & white shield logo, sapphire crystals, and subtle model information etched around the display back. Sporty padded leather straps are well suited to this watch and feature a decorative button which, like the well-engineered butterfly deployant clasp, is also signed with the brand's logo.
As mentioned above, one of the most significant elements of this watch is the movement. Gematic Caliber 0988 is a 24-jewel automatic based upon the current industry-standard thin Swiss movement found in many high-end watches from brands as diverse as IWC, RGM, and Ulysse Nardin. This variant is elaborated in Germany with blued screws, plates and bridges covered in perlage, and a gilt rotor with decorative engraving. The timekeeping rates of this review example were not specifically tested, but in general use it exhibited accuracy typical of this high-grade caliber and no deviations were noted. Hand-winding and setting functions are very smooth and effortless; the rotor spins freely and no rattling or rubbing inside the case were detectable.
As with all Riedenschild Original watches I've had occasion to examine, the quality of this piece is very good. The brand prides itself in following rigorous standards in assembly and manufacturing, so it is no surprise that the watches are impressive. What is surprising, almost across the entire Riedenschild line, is the pricing. This model has a suggested US retail price of $799, a target that most makers of well-built European watches with exclusive movements could only consider in their dreams. For that price, the buyer receives a nicely packaged watch and a two-year guarantee.
If you are a regular reader of my reviews, you will know that I am impressed with what Riedenschild Original has been able to produce in the few years they have been in existence. Some of the styles are rather bolder than many traditional mechanical collectors prefer, but the market for these pieces is strong and Riedenschild has tapped into it. Their variety of simple, classic watches as well as gadgety, attention-getters seems likely to provide something to appeal to even the most discerning consumer, and the quality cannot be exceeded within the price range. For more information visit www.riedenschild.com.
Text & images (of the watch under review) © C. Bradley Jacobs; all other images courtesy EWG
Forty Years After
Chronodeco's 1968 Chronographs
It is not often that a watch enthusiast gets to combine his fascination and passion--what some may consider obsession--into a marketable skill which is financially able to support a growing vintage watch collection and a large inventory of spare parts. Even less common is that someone stumbles into this position more or less by accident. Such are the circumstances that make S. Craig Bergsma one lucky guy. Craig, founder of the small Chronodeco brand, is an inveterate tinkerer, bargain hunter, and self-taught watchmaker. A variety of past experiences have contributed to the honing of his skills as a watchmaker who can restore an entire watch, including its case. These include being a builder of hot rods, an aircraft mechanic, a motorcycle road-racer and a Metallurgical engineer. Include the knowledge gained from reading almost three dozen books on complex vintage watch repair and putting those principles to use with watches in various states of disrepair and you may understand his desire to put things in proper running order.
Today he is happiest when he can build something unique that will contribute to the happiness of others. We watch enthusiasts have reason to be grateful for his willingness to scour the landscape for high-quality left-overs, to obtain old stocks of watch parts or tools, or to bring forgotten movements back to life. In doing so, he has brought Chronodeco from a modest idea--that of creating new watches in the tradition of art-deco design--to an internationally recognized brand that has released such diverse products as 1940s-style chronographs and dress watches made from New Old Stock parts to modern automatic chronographs combining old school design with current technology. As with all things, successful ventures often evolve to something quite different from the original vision. Such is the case with the new Chronodeco limited-edition 1968 watches.
The idea of naming a watch after an historic year is not new--Eterna revived some of its old designs from 1935 in their eponymous Les Historiques line--but for a brand which has only been in existence a handful of years, the intent of the 1968 chronograph is not to invoke its own history but that of an era. To Chronodeco's Craig Bergsma, the 1960s represent a time of growth and change, both of a personal nature and in terms of the development of the culture of the United States. That decade saw much of the conservative traditionalism of American society challenged by the emergence of counter-cultures (the proverbial sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll), the rapid evolution of technology (eg, President Kennedy's promise to put a man on the Moon), and growing public protest over American policies of war and human rights. The culmination of much unrest was the result, in 1968, of the assassinations of Dr. King and Senator Kennedy, nationwide race riots, anti-war demonstrations, the beatings at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and other acts of civil revolt. At the same time, however, a thread of extreme creativity was thriving--great music and art were being made all over the United States and the world--which was also reflected in the designs of everyday products such as wristwatches.
Keeping in mind his own recollections of 1968 and his desire for Chronodeco products to accurately reflect the age which they represent, Craig Bergsma set out to offer today's watch connoisseur an authentically vintage series of new chronographs. Chronodeco's previous release, the Positano time-only watch (featured in iW April 2007), was a departure from the brand's dedication to chronographs, so Bergsma was certain that his new piece would return to those roots. Coincident with the evolution of his brand's offerings, his own focus on collecting watches has expanded as well. Just a handful of years ago his collection was largely limited to 1930s-1950s chronograph wristwatches in a variety of sizes and styles. But recent opportunities to expand his collection have witnessed the addition of many more modern and "funky" examples from the 1960s-1970s. The convergence of his change in tastes with the occasion of the 40th anniversary of such a troubled and momentous year forged the creative plan for the Chronodeco 1968 series.
Thus, when seeking the components that would enable his next venture, the opportunity to obtain some pristine 1960s-vintage chronograph cases and dials sparked rapid development of the project. What many would consider a limitation, Bergsma sees as an opportunity; having a variety of NOS dial styles (collected over the previous six years), two types of cases, and the need for two variations of the same base movement gives Chronodeco the freedom to offer a pair of small series of watches which can effectively be custom-built according to the buyer's whim.
Series I features a distinctive cushion-shaped case housing the manually wound Valjoux 7733 two-register chronograph movement. Thirty numbered examples will be produced in total, the choice of five different dials is offered, along with a host of customization options among the styles and colors of hands.
Series II watches feature a rounded tonneau case containing the 3-register 7736 variant of the Series I movement. Due to the scarcity of suitable materials, only five Series II watches will be made. Buyers may choose one of two available dial styles and select from a variety of sub-dial hands including day-glo orange.
Each watch is assembled and checked personally by Bergsma, who also revitalized each movement (a full overhaul with new mainspring), installed new crystals and leather straps, and supervised the printing of the dials and the engraving of case and movement parts with brand identification. Pricing of the 1968 editions begin at $895 for Series I and $1195 for Series II. Additional options for customization--such as the inclusion of a vintage stainless steel bracelet of the type used by Heuer, Longines and other brands in 1968--are available at extra cost. For more information and many additional images, including slideshows of all the variations of the 1968 line, visit www.Chronodeco.com.
Though the Chronodeco operation is essentially a one-man show, it is through Craig Bergsma's effort and dedication that roughly thirty-four watch enthusiasts (Bergsma generally keeps one of his creations for himself) will be able to relive one of the wonderful results of the 1960s. His combination of passion and industry may be a source of happiness only he enjoys, but the results are here for all timepiece connoisseurs to enjoy--hopefully for years and watches to come.
Text © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com; images provided by Chronodeco, Brandon Sparks & the author
Thank you for visiting watchcarefully.com. I am Brad Jacobs, a watch collector/enthusiast and a free-lance writer who contributes to various magazines, web sites and watch companies. My web site is meant to be a jumping-off point for you to explore the horological articles and essays I have written. It is also your means for contacting me.
Since the mid-1990s I have been heavily focussed on learning as much as possible about this fascinating industry. I have attended conferences, spoken with owners of watch companies & web sites, attended watchmaking school, tinkered with watches and photography, and finally settled on being a chronicler and commentator on the world of watch collecting.
My focus has been writing about new products released by small and independent watch companies and on unusual but accessible vintage pieces sometimes overlooked by the mainstream press. Occasionally, I like to break new ground and report on the unique, such as having custom watches made or saving a classic watch from decline. I've also covered horological events. Frequently I contribute informal on-line reviews of fascinating watches and I am open to chronicling any interesting watch-related topic.
C. Bradley Jacobs