Graham Silverstone Luffield – “British” watches?

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 30th, 2007
Nov 30

Although I appreciate smaller/independent watchmakers, as I mentioned in my earlier post on Volna, I have an issue with the use of another country’s horological heritage, while still being fundamentally a Swiss watch.

I realize there are some manufacturing and marketing advantages (and cachet) to “Swiss Made” on the dial of a watch, but I for one would be more willing to pay larger $ for an independent watch brand that actually said (and truly was) “Made in the Isle of Man”, or “Hand Made in Britain”, etc. I know, I’m going on about brands “walking the talk” again! :-)

Point in case, the newest models from Graham. These Silverstone Luffield models have a nice package of features – flyback chrono, GMT hand, big date, double sapphire crystals, over-sized pushers, tachymeter bezel, automatic with 42 hour power reserve. It’s also one of the better looking examples of what I call the “race car techno” look, with it’s carbon fiber look dial, tread pattern strap, red/white/black color scheme. Far too many watches in this type of look go overboard, this watch has a really nice balance, and is still quite legible for basic timekeeping use. Nice watch, and thanks to a recent TimeZone post for the following image.


Now before you start shouting at me through your screen, I will admit that the following is a totally unfair comparison between watches that are at completely different levels of horological art. But… it’s another name representing the rebirth of the British watchmaking industry, and one that truly is British.

I really, really admire Roger Smith. A small independent watchmaker, with an obvious passion for his craft and his creations, his watches are hand-made by him on commission at his small facility on the Isle of Man. He also has very strong & interesting ideas on clean design, and the use of more substantial parts and slower beat speeds.

For more information about his earlier career read this article by Curtis Thompson, and for a very enjoyable read of the experience of one of his customers read this article by Felipe Jordao. Thanks to ThePuristS for both links and for the following images.





Web Advertising – 3 Easy Lessons (Ma spends your inheritance)

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 29th, 2007
Nov 29


I hadn’t seen this ad from last year until just yesterday, but it made me smile. I decided to look into “Bernie” further, and found a post on FIPP explaining that it was actually an ad from the Irish print publishers association, advertising … the effectiveness of Irish magazine ads!

It worked, Bernie got me (and many others) to not only read the ad, but follow up on it.

Self-referential jokes aside, there is a good lesson here for web advertising. Even more so than print, you have to use effective tactics to get attention (which drives click-through, which hopefully drives conversion). This is a perfect effective example of a couple of top points I was reading today in yet another “Online Advertising success tactics” book…

People will read and act on ads that

  1. don’t look like ads
  2. shock them
  3. and/or amuse them

Independent Watchmakers

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 28th, 2007
Nov 28

I’m a big fan of smaller independent watchmakers, it’s a great introduction of fresh air, new concepts, and bright ideas into the industry. It also provides a direction and goal (either short or long term) for many potential new entrants into the industry that might otherwise just pass at the idea of becoming a “watchmaker, which can really help bring new people to the industry in general.

These are the sort of people (and jobs) I’d love to be able to talk about happening here, however North America has always been challenged compared to Europe in having good apprenticeship programs. I can speak from personal and family experience, there is a definite perceived push to “go to university” and a related “look down on” feeling about trades on this side of the pond.

We’ve fallen so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to skilled trades as a result, there is a real shortage … I know of several technology firms in Ontario who have to recruit from SouthEast Asia for skilled technical trades, and some service firms for basic stuff like printer and photocopier repair, simply because of the lack of potentials here in their own back yard. And we’re not talking low paying jobs either!

Okay, off my soapbox and onto some selected sites I recommend…

Review of Peter Speake-Marin’s Piccadilly

Tempered – Artisan Watchmakers

AHCI etcetera on Horomudi

Seiko Instruments – art watches

Web 2.0 Branding – Top 4 Lessons of the Day

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 27th, 2007
Nov 27

In a previous post, I spoke about today’s increased social networking being a force on brands to “walk the talk”, given that a large and increasing percentage of any consumers considering your brand will discuss it online, provide and listen to feedback both good and bad, and take that inter-personal feedback a lot more seriously than your ads.

Here’s an interesting example that’s been talked about since early last month, and is now getting repeat airing over at AdAge.

Many of you will have heard of and/or seen the Dove “anti beauty industry” ads during the past few years. First were the award-winning ones in their “campaign for real beauty” series defining beauty as seen in regular women, not the supermodel type normally gracing consumer ads. Then came the anti-PhotoShop “Evolution” spots. More recent was the “Onslaught” viral video, created by Ogilvy & Mather of Toronto, with its “talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does” message.


There is a small problem however, that has caught Dove in an unexpected cross-fire of criticism. The brand is owned by Unilever, which also produces Axe, Slim-Fast and other products which are perceived to eagerly buy into and support the whole “normal is not good looking enough” philosophy and advertising enshrined in grocery-checkout magazines.

Bob Garfield, AdAge, 8/October/2007 … A worthy cause, a brilliant strategy, a flawless video. It all amounts to something very close to perfection. So, yes, absolutely, four stars.

Damn, if it just weren’t for the nagging hypocrisy of it all.

Viewed close up, the “Campaign for Real Beauty” is precisely the unassailable defense of human values it purports to be. But to pull back is to reveal. Dove is a brand from Unilever, which isn’t so enlightened when it comes to Axe/Lynx — whose ads portray women as slinky sex toys — and Slim-Fast, which encourages exactly the kind of yo-yo dieting so vividly dramatized in “Onslaught.”

As for Ogilvy, well — in a bit of horrifying/delicious irony — it is actually the U.S. agency for the Barbie doll.

Oops. …

Social networking (okay, Web 2.0 if you really want to use an over-extended and inaccurate buzzword :-) ) has allowed this meme to spread and gain momentum.

In this particular case, I doubt it will build up enough of a ruckus to do any serious damage. This is in part because of the brand history built up with the prior “real beauty” campaign, and in part because there is a valid “feel good” message to the video. And the real lesson, and unfortunate truth, is that they are simply out to sell more product, and as one women states well:

no matter what we’re out here saying – this film is circulating like wildfire and I didn’t have Dove on my mind yesterday. A viral video coup if there ever was one.

Lesson 1 – Web 2.0 is social networking, and references from your consumer’s network of contacts matter more to them than your ads, you have to “live the brand” or risk consumer feedback undermining anything you do.

Lesson 2 – There still is (almost) no such thing as bad publicity.

Lesson 3 – Content is king. Put something out there that makes people go “wow”, whether viral or not, and you will get eyeballs.

Lesson 4 – Truly original and thought-provoking messages can still (sometimes) cut through.

Review – Seiko 5 Military Style

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 26th, 2007
Nov 26

There are many models of Seiko 5 available, some sold globally, some just in Japan, and others for specific geographical markets. The 5′s have been Seiko’s largest group of mechanical watches for decades now. The line-up ranges from cheaper “dress watch for younger guy who doesn’t know better” models, through better quality dress watches, sport divers, Seiko Superior, and others. Most of today’s 5′s use use the workhorse 7S26 movement.

Among the ones manufactured today is a group of “military style” watches, which are the ones I will talk about in this post.

“Military style” refers to the simple and very legible dial layout, reminiscent of military spec watches.

This watch style is available in 5 dial colors – tan (803), khaki (805), blue (807), black (809) and Lumibrite (811 – lume on the dial rather than the hands, so an off-white look). All have a Hardlex crystal, and a display back.

All of these are available with a stainless strap, which matches well with a sandblasted, almost pewter-like finish on their cases. Mine on stainless makes a nice low-end dress watch, especially with ablack face, perfect for banging around at work.

But … each of the first 4 colors are available instead with a matching, double layer nylon “flieger” strap with pewter colored hardware. And to me this turns these watches into something special for a low-end purchase.

With the fabric bands, the various part of these watches just mesh well – the pewter finish of the case and matching buckle &strap hardware, the dial color similar but not exactly the same as those of the strap and the reinforcement strip – it creates a bit of an air of adventure to them, especially the khaki (military) and the tan (desert).

I found these watches among the most comfortable to wear of any I own. The straps are fairly long and can fit a large range of wrist sizes. The nylons trap makes it a light watch to wear, but not so much to feel insubstantial. A friend of mine with a much larger watch collection and budget than I just purchased his first Patek Phillipe, but still chose to wear his khaki Seiko to a recent trip to Singapore, because of the comfort factor.

My opinion? These watches are a good value, well-made for the price, with some good looking design features, and they succeed in pulling off an “adventuring” look that’s different from most of the lower-end mechanicals on the market for you. In my opinion these are perfect “business casual” beaters -at this price, get one of each color and you now have everyday watches to match your mood and clothes!

I would recommend either PremierWorld or Pokemonyu on eBay as a reputable source for these watches. Pokemonyu is currently offering them as “Buy Now” for $44.50 each. See what I mean by good value!

And yes, I took my own opinion :-) … following are my SNK803-K2, SNK805-K2, SNK807-K2, and SNK809-J1 (note – color is a bit washed out in these pics compared to the real thing, still playing with the camera).

snk803.JPG snk805.JPG

snk807.JPG snk809.JPG

Volna – “Russian Heritage Swiss Watch”

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 25th, 2007
Nov 25

Aha! My questions yesterday about Volna were answered, it is a Swiss brand (scroll down for details). Initially announced back in March, but their new web site is now up and they’ve done some recent advertising press releases.

I’m warming up to these watches more (the serial # label on the side, screwed-down indicator), but not enough to pay between $4,000 to $6,500 (depending on the model) for “borrowed heritage”. They also make no mention of the specific movements they are using, or who is actually manufacturing the watches. Posts on the Watch-u-Seek Russian watch forum seem to be in general agreement, nice watch but a shame it’s actually just generic Swiss.

Several articles including this one in Worldtempus identify François Candolfi as the CEO of the firm, with parters Eleonore Paschoud and Marc Calmonte. I find their comments on re-starting a heritage smaller brand interesting…

“When you are new and that you do not have a marketing budget, distributors and retailers are your best tools.” With his traveling companions Eleonore Paschoud and Marc Calmonte, François Candolfi is lucid on the conditions prevailing in the launch of a brand.

About their web site – I find it very interesting and captivating in many ways, nice experience. However it’s non-scaling and over 1300 pixels wide, so cannot be displayed on most laptops without chopping off parts, including (on some pages) the basic navigation, the location of which changes from page to page.

These are a couple of basic web design errors which are fairly common for brand advertising sites, but in this case are surprising given the quality of the site itself. (I won’t mention the issue of being overly Flash-centric with no searchable HTML text, since that seems a common design mandate for just about all Swiss watch firms for such reason.)

volna-c.JPG volna-d.JPG volna-e.JPG

A meeting of two watchmaking giants.

For more than two centuries Switzerland has been a great watchmaking nation, known throughout the world for the quality and precision of its creations. The USSR also held a strong place in the world market, thanks to many joint ventures with the Swiss, and in the 1960s the country even held the position of being the world’s second-largest producer of mechanical timepieces.

Volna has brought these two together once more, uniting Soviet historic heritage and style with Swiss technical know-how.

… unique technical functions: an aperture in the dial with an indicator of water-resistance,combined with s screw-down water-resistant double crown …

… security indicator is an aperture on the dial that indicates whether the crown is properly closed or not. When the crown is unscrewed it moves from the 300 M position to the open position …

… caseback. The intentionally complex curved shape of the propeller …


Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 24th, 2007
Nov 24

TimeZone Industry News reports a new brand from Russia by the name of Volna. I’m not sure how well I like them yet. For me the dials are nice (both the very “Soviet comrade” red and black variant, as well as the white variant), but I personally am not a huge fan of the protruding crown look. What do you think?

I have to admit, it also itches at me every time I see a watch try and leverage multiple countries of origin – in this case (no pun intended!) a Russian watch with “Swiss Made” on the dial. Would appreciate your opinions on this.


VOLNA timepieces own a rich heritage in the mysterious, secret universe of the Soviet submarine fleet. Each collection is named after a submarine class of the Soviet e incorporating design inspiration that translates marine elements into a decisively avant-garde and innovative wristwatch. … VOLNA will produce 500 watches worldwide, with only 150 pieces available in the US, exclusively through PK Time Group. Retail prices for VOLNA begin at $4,900 …

Notre Dame Millenials – It’s Your Brand, Get Over It

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 23rd, 2007
Nov 23

Addendum to yesterday’s post. I also recommend reading the comments. Several stating (okay, for some perhaps the correct term is complaining) that the article was inaccurate because it was only about Notre Dame students, who are different from all the other university and college students there are. And others complaining that the article is negative about their generation and ‘they’re not like that”.

Reading some of these comments made me sigh and shake my head.

First, I challenge you to name me a single school that doesn’t say “but we’re different”. Guess what, at a general demographic level, you’re not. Get over it.

Second, it’s often challenging hearing what somebody external to your clique has to say about you and how you are perceived by others. The writer is speaking from personal experience of a much higher sample count of people who’ve gone through her classroom, than you and your personal circle of friends number. And she’s seeing this all from an outside perspective. What she has written, really is how many of your peers act and look to the rest of us.

Having other people with different experiences judge and categorize you (as part of your demographic group) is always unsettling … nobody can really see what they are like the same way an outsider can. It’s been just as unsettling to me throughout my life at those instances in time when I learned about other people’s opinions of me and my generation. But, guess what, it is what it is (how Zen of me) … it’s part of your generation’s brand. And that brand has power, positive and negative – just like the brand which is Notre Dame – know it, use it, overcome it, accept it.

Next »