Basel 2003 novelties
by Marcus Hanke
© text and pics (if not otherwise noted): M. Hanke, 2003
If you have not done so before already, please have a look also at our Alex' account on the Glashütte Original presentation, illustrated with Alberto's magnificent pics. To access the article, click here:
|Early this year, the newly designated CEO of Glashütte Original, Dr. Frank Müller, offered to make a presentation of the new watches exclusive for the PuristS at the Basel fair. Of course, I was more than happy to accept that kind offer, and in the following weeks, GO's public relations staff organized everything.
Thus it came that on the afternoon of April 4th, our group met in front of the GO booth. In fact we had two groups, since the interest in the presentation was so large that the GO people considered it better to split up into two groups. Thus each of us had enough opportunity to study the new watches in detail.
We were welcomed by the charming boss of the PR department, Mrs. Katrin Böhme, Dr. Müller, and Mr. Pachner from GO Vienna. In a small and quiet room far in the booth's back, we arranged ourselves around a table, and Dr. Müller immediately went "in medias res", pulling out the first of several new watches, presented by Glashütte Original.
This is the continuation of the Pano-series, which was started with the genial and award-winning PanoRetroGraph two years ago, then continued last year, with the PanoGraph and the PanoReserve. Until now, all the "Pano"-watches were equipped with handwinding movements, but now, in 2003, the self-winding era starts. The new flagship of the Pano-series is this wonderful tourbillon:
It is the first self-winding tourbillon being produced in Germany, if I am not wrong. Of course it also has the panorama date, and features a technology typical for Glashütte-made tourbillons: It is "flying", meaning that its axle is attached to the case only on the rear side, leaving the front end without any bearing. This cantilevered tourbillon was first used by the master watchmaker Alfred Helwig. The new PanoMaticTourbillon combines the unique technology with an automatic winding and the panorama date. With a hand-guilloché dial, made of 18k white gold and the platinum case, this watch is not just striking, but simply breathtaking. Unfortunately, only a few lucky customers will be able to purchase the PanoMaticTourbillon, since the edition is limited to fifty watches.
This is the entry model of the new PanoMatic series, featuring the panorama date besides the characteristic asymmetrical dial layout. Its cal. 90-01 has been developed entirely new, being the second self-winding movement offered by Glashütte Original, besides the traditional cal. 39 of the Senator series (the self-winding cal. 93 tourbillon movement of the PanoMaticTourbillon is based on the cal. 90). Contrary to certain press reports, the new cal. 90 will not replace the Senator's cal. 39 movement. The two watch lines, the Pano-series and the Senator series, will stay independent from each other. A replacement for the cal. 39 will eventually become available, but not before next year, maybe even later. As a unique and immediately apparent feature, the cal. 90 has the duplex swan-neck adjustment of the handwinding PanoReserve.
This interesting arrangement makes it possible to adjust the balance wheel's beat frequency (28,800 A/h) by moving the position of the stud (where the outer end of the hairspring attaches. - Thanks, John, for the explanation!). One might argue about the usefulness of this elaborate and complicated arrangement in daily life. However, the balanced symmetry of the two swan-necks is an aesthetic highlight, which should be justification enough.
While the handwinding movement of the PanoReserve was a bit too 'covered', in my opinion, leaving only the balance with the duplex adjustment open to view, the new self-winding movements look appropriately busy with their eccentric winding rotor, made of 21k gold. This is somewhat between the classic full-size rotor and the micro rotor, combining the two advantages of these two systems with each other: winding efficiency and a good view on the escapement.
The PanoMaticDate will be available in the same three case and dial variants as are all the other watches from the Pano-series: Stainless steel, 18k pink gold and platinum. Unfortunately, the gorgeous black/silver dial is limited to the platinum version, which again is limited to 200 pieces per model.
At first sight, the steel-cased PanoMaticDate with its silver dial and polished hands, might look a bit sober, at least it does on the stock pictures. However, the dial really comes to life once you see the watch in person: There are several areas that have different surface finishes, from brushed to grainy, resulting in a radically changing shine of the dial, depending on the angle of the light, hitting the dial.
These fine differences really make the steel version my personal favourite besides the platinum.
Add a moon phase window to the PanoMaticDate, and you get the PanoMaticLunar. The result is an incredibly attractive watch, and it is rather easy to foresee that this will become one of the most popular watches made by GO. The moon phase display at 2 effectively balances the eccentric time display, thus making it unnecessary to add the specific surface finish of the PanoMaticDate. This would make the dial a bit too busy. The movement is designated cal. 90-02, reflecting the difference due to the moon phase mechanism. However, the other technical parameters are unchanged.
It is nice to see the care GO took in designing the dials, matching the moon's colour and that of the window background with the rest: On the pink gold version, the moon and the stars are in pink gold, too, the window is deep blue. The steel cased version features the moon coated with white gold, a blue window, and blued hands, in order to balance the blue window (on the steel PanoMaticDate, the hands are polished steel).
Finally, on the black/silver dial of the platinum version, a blue moon phase window would somewhat spoil the dial's beauty, therefore the background is silver, with moon and stars coated with white gold. This combination is really extremely attractive!
However, this high level of care in dial design emphasizes some elements even more, that several enthusiasts considered as 'unlucky', 'disturbing', even 'bad' . I am speaking of the "video recorder syndrome", the Pano-series is seemingly suffering: printed on the dial are the features of the watch, just like a video recorder's front boasts of all the technology built into the machine. Especially, if the feature is apparent even for those that take only casual interest in watchmaking, this practice of labelling the dials seems a bit weird. Thus we can read "Mondphase" (moon phase) besides the moon phase window of the PanoMaticLunar, "Panoramadatum" besides the date window.
Really, I am quite optimistic that nearly all who purchase such a watch will be perfectly aware of what a moon phase or a date window is, so why compromising the beauty of an otherwise perfectly finished dial? If there are any explanations for this strange practice, carelessness is certainly not among them; too meticulously designed are the other parts of the dial, the hands, the markers.
So if I may come up with a possible reason, why GO has adopted this "video recorder syndrome" in labelling the Pano-series' dials: It all started with the very first watch of the Pano-series, the PanoRetroGraph. This unique chronograph featured not only a pusher which was responsible for the count-down function, but also had the functions of the other two chrono pushers reversed, compared with the traditional arrangement, which has been common since at least seventy years. Conventional chronograph watches start and stop their chrono second by pressing the upper pusher at 2, resetting it with pressing the lower pusher, located at 4. When picking up any chronograph, I use its chrono function exactly by doing this. Since the pushers are exactly reversed on the PanoRetroGraph, it makes sense to designate their functions with printed labels on the dial. An additional label was needed to designate the countdown function of the pusher at 10.
With the exception of the latter, the PanoGraph had the same 'problem', therefore making the same labelling necessary. There was absolutely no practical reason, however, to use such labels on the PanoReserve, which was presented at the same time. Here, the words "Gangreserve" (power reserve) and "Panoramadatum" merely explain the obvious, even making the dial busier than it would be perfect. However, I think that GO's designers felt urged to keep as a style element, what was necessary on the chronographs.
That the labelling can serve an aesthetic purpose as well, is demonstrated by the PanoMaticTourbillon and the PanoMaticDate. On both watches, the dial per se is not balanced, due to the eccentric location of the time display (including the tourbillon) on the dial's left side. The panorama date window alone is not enough to counterbalance, leaving a large, seemingly featureless space on the right side. Here the labels help, by offering the spectator's eye a point to focus on, balancing the left side and giving the dial a harmonic expression in total. What is an advantage on some of the Pano-series watches, may be a curse on others, by leaving the impression of scattered features. The PanoMaticLunar looks perfectly balanced, without the labels printed on the dial. These but distract from the well-proportioned layout. In my personal opinion, GO should decide that uniformity of design within the series is less important than the design harmony of the individual model.
Another issue that I noted on the new watches, is the "Babylonian language confusion" on the dials. Until now, Glashütte Original made it immediately clear on the dials that these watches are German products. In sharp contrast to the founder of a well-known watch label, who went so far to change his name from "Müller" to "Muller", since there are no "Umlauts" in English and French, GO proudly kept the "ü" in its name. Even the feature labels discussed above, all are in German, which is but logical, since it is a German product, with German design, German development, German workforce, and German tradition. Then why, on Earth, did they decide to adopt English names for their watches? Why didn't they call the new watches "PanoMatikDatum", and "PanoMatikLunar" (note the "k" in place of the "c")? Yes, indeed, I am nitpicky. I wouldn't be, if I were not aware of the high level of care, invested by GO designers to make perfect dials. However, these issues should not be taken too important. The new watches are extremely beautiful as they are now.
Well, but I should continue with my account of that great afternoon: Not long after Dr. Müller started his explanations of the novelties, the door opened and Mr. Heinz Pfeifer, the company's "re-founder" entered. Despite his busy schedule, he freed up some of his time to spend with us Purists. Mr. Pfeifer is a very straight-forward man, and with openness told us of the difficulties he encountered when he took over the bankrupt company after the end of the communist regime in Eastern Germany. In spite of these he brought the factory from virtually zero to the state-of-the-art in watchmaking within but a few years, without any massive technical assistance and financial aid from third parties. Finally, he gave us some very personal insights in his hobby as watch collector.
After that, Mr. Pfeifer buried his hand in his pocket, only to retrieve an absolutely stunning preview on what GO will present at next year's Basel fair. Of course we were asked to keep our fingers away from the cameras' release buttons, and all I may say is that it will be absolutely great!
Meanwhile, the unanticipated visit by Mr. Pfeifer had wrought chaos on the tight schedule, with the second group of Purists already waiting outside the booth since fifteen minutes. However, "improvisation" is our second forename, and everything worked well.
Some hours later, the "business" highlight found its culinary counterpart: Glashütte Original had invited us for dinner in one of Basel's finest restaurants, the "Charon". There, we had our own separate room, and hosted by Dr. Müller, Mrs. Böhme and Mr. Pachner, we had the opportunity to enjoy not only interesting conversations, but also a phantastic meal, accompanied by some marvellous wines, which had been selected by Dr. Müller himself.
Thus a wonderful afternoon found its end, and I am sure it will be well remembered by all the members of our PuristS group. I would like to thank Dr. Müller, Mr. Pfeifer, and their able staff for their kind invitation and the perfect organization of our meeting.
Comments, suggestions, and corrections to this article are welcome.
Copyright April 2003 - Marcus Hanke ThePuristS.com - all rights reserved