Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 Collection

Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 collection was born in 2019 with a biblical-size bang. Thirteen total watches. Six different sub-collections, ranging from a three-hand with date to a minute repeater. Three brand-new in-house movements. An entirely new case. And more than 500 snark-filled comments on HODINKEE’s initial Introducing post. The bang was heard around the world, but it wasn’t entirely well-received.
There was a lot to take in that day, honestly too much to formulate an immediate coherent opinion. One of Swiss watchmaking’s most prestigious and oldest marques had launched an entirely new collection agnostic to the Royal Oak, the company’s flagship product. For better or worse, Audemars Piguet is the Royal Oak, and the Royal Oak is Audemars Piguet.So if it’s not a Royal Oak, then what exactly is the  Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 ?

Three years after its difficult debut, it feels like the Code 11.59 collection is finally starting to find its groove. Here are three of the steps Audemars Piguet took to get there.
So much of the negative discourse that surrounded the Code 11.59 launch was centered on the time-and-date Code 11.59, the simplest, entry-level model of the collection with a decidedly bland execution. The watch admittedly does not look much better today, but it was also never meant to be the hero of the collection.
There’s a reason AP launched Code 11.59 in so many different variants – it was to show off the flexibility of the case profile as a home for complications. Focusing on the three-hander was entirely missing the point, and by doing so, many people missed out on the biggest news of the Code 11.59 introduction (the development of a new in-house integrated automatic chronograph movement, the caliber 4400, AP’s first in-house chronograph). Yes, it’s AP’s fault for including it in the initial batch, but it’s understandable that it would have wanted to bring a more affordable execution to market.
Audemars Piguet has slowly rectified its early missteps. I can’t remember the last time it brought a new three-hander Code 11.59 reference to market, while AP has continually experimented with new complications and new formats for existing complicated models. Just look at the big news I reported on earlier this week – AP released three different Code 11.59 models that are, in my opinion, some of the best-looking examples yet.
There’s a pair of new flying tourbillon models, and they aren’t just empty tourbillon-laden vessels, they feature details such as an inky dial made of solid onyx stone and aesthetic tweaks such as no applied numerals. Don’t overlook the openworked model that highlights the insanely symmetrical movement architecture inside that’s decorated to the highest standards. (And did I mention the insane shade of blue on the bridges? Yeah. I think that’s pretty sweet.)

That same insane symmetry is found on the movement layout of the Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, a beast of a watch with a mirrored movement execution and flyback chronograph functionality.
There’s no  Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59  Grande Sonnerie this time around (AP did that in 2020), but it’s amazing how much more complete these watches look compared to the somewhat pedestrian lacquer dial finish found on the first batch of Code 11.59 watches. Yes, the Flying Tourbillon and Openworked Flying Tourbillon were both included in the initial batch of Code 11.59 models from 2019 (the Tourbillon Chronograph hybrid also joined the collection in 2020), but the execution has only improved in the past three years. I mean, c’mon, how can you not drool over the wild two-tone bridges and insane depth perspective in the Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon Chronograph? If it came out of some independent workshop in the Vallée de Joux, collectors would be politely lining up around the block.
The solid onyx dial found on the newest Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon might have been the headline material out of the three references I covered last Wednesday, but the most significant material at play among all three models is ceramic. One of the benefits of the two-part Code 11.59 case design that AP made such a big deal about three years ago is the ability to use two different types of material in a single watch. All three of the new Code 11.59 references use an inner ceramic case in the shape of an octagon (Code 11.59’s sole reference to the Royal Oak) encapsulated by an 18k white or pink gold lug cage. The result is aesthetically very interesting, resulting in an unexpected take on two-tone, through the application of the extra-hard inner ceramic case that protects the movement and the precious metal bezel, lugs, and caseback.
Two of the three new Code 11.59 watches that were released last week feature a black ceramic inner case, but the Flying Tourbillon Openworked has a bright blue ceramic inner case that is the result of the same blue ceramic process found in the blue-ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar that Danny went Hands-On with last week. Colored ceramic is quite a bit more difficult to achieve than black-and-white ceramic; it wasn’t until the early 2010s that the sintering process was figured out to achieve colors such as blue, red, and green. Of course, these inner cases are hand-decorated, featuring satin-brushed central areas with polished chamfers.
Although AP does decorate the ceramic material itself, it works with a supplier to produce the material. (Which is no surprise – very, very few Swiss watch brands produce ceramic themselves. The only ones I’m aware of are Rolex and maybe Hublot.) AP works with a company called Bangerter which utilizes a proprietary process that combines zirconium oxide power with an undisclosed binding agent. The binding agent is removed before the start of the sintering process but after a five-axis CNC machine has shaped the unique octagonal shape of the inner case. The blue shade (and hardness) of the ceramic material eventually comes after it’s been heated to approximately 1,400 degrees Celsius.

It seems, then, that Audemars Piguet and Bangerter are able to withstand the heat.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu

Ulysse Nardin turned 175 this year, and I’m not sure whether that fact surprised me or not when I opened a recent press release and read about it. The company is old, no doubt, and I’ve seen a number of their older marine chronometers and mid-century dress watches. But so many of its meaningful advancements are bound up in the mechanical watch renaissance that Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu was itself, at least partially spearheaded by the company’s longtime champion, the late Rolf Schnyder. In honor of the anniversary, UN is releasing the new Chronometry collection, which connects the company back to its historically significant role as a maker of marine chronometers. And of these new watches, a beautiful, grand feu enamel dial is the showstopper. The layout of that dial, which comes via UN-owned Donzé Cadrans, is a familiar one to anyone who’s seen the company’s watches. The hours and minutes come from the central axis, and a power reserve indicator occupies a slightly unusual position up at 12. The caliber UN-128 tourbillon is down at 6 for a symmetrical look. And the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu has the Ulysse Nardin Anchor escapement, which uses bucking silicon blades to reduce friction and the need for additional lubricant.
Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu has long been at the forefront of using silicon in its watches, and this tourbillon is a part of that legacy. I like the look the of the Torpilleur range and how it’s been executed in this new watch within the Chronometry Collection. The watch combines a vintage-feeling design inspired by Marine Chronometers and a grand feu enamel dial with with one of the more sophisticated escapement technologies we have seen in recent times. That dichotomy feels wonderfully representative of Ulysse Nardin as a watchmaker.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 41 Ceramic

The hottest luxury watch on the planet is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

Ah, but which Royal Oak? Which one is the most interesting and collectible of all the contemporary, current-production models? My nominee is the ceramic-cased Royal Oak QP.

It features everything that makes a “conventional” (if there is such a thing) Royal Oak so damn good – namely the grande tapisserie dial, the thin profile, the integrated bracelet that’s a work of art unto itself, and of course, the octagonal bezel – but the ceramic-cased RO QP pushes it all to the max. The use of state-of-the-art colored ceramic for the case and bracelet means the entire package is bolder, more recognizable, and more scratch-proof than ever before.

At the same time, inside, the ultra-thin caliber 5134 is able to balance the seemingly disparate realm of the highly technical and the supremely slim, in superlative fashion. Ben was absolutely right when, in 2017, he introduced the inaugural ceramic Royal Oak QP by saying, “I’m calling it right here and right now, this is the hottest watch of SIHH 2017.” Five years later, during the Royal Oak’s ongoing 50th anniversary, the watch is still causing temperatures to rise.
That’s because, earlier today, Audemars Piguet quietly unveiled another scorcher. Following 2017’s original blacked-out ceramic RO QP and the white-ceramic sequel that came two years later, AP has released a new Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar (ref. 26579CS.OO.1225CS.01) via its official brand website – and this one comes in blue (!) ceramic for the very first time. Is anyone else sweating or is it just me?

The new, blue Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is mostly identical to its predecessors, sharing an identical ultra-thin self-winding movement (caliber 5134) and case profile (41mm × 9.5mm), with the only major updates coming in the form of the high-tech blue ceramic case and the matching blue color of the grande tapisserie dial. But given how coveted the black and white ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars have become, this one still rates as a big deal.
Details on the new release are currently fairly scarce (in this case, what you see is what we see), but considering the high-profile nature of many of the known owners of previous ceramic RO QPS, it’s safe to say it’s a watch that will land on the wrists of many of AP’s best clients. We’ve previously spotted Draymond Green rocking his white-ceramic example, and everyone from UK rapper Stormzy, French actor Omar Sy, American comedian Kevin Hart, and Norwegian DJ Kygo have been seen with a touch of ceramic on their wrist.
The Royal Oak turns 50 this year, and we’ve already had one hell of a party. Remember the new “Jumbo,” ref. 16202? That was only announced to the world in January of this year. Karl Lagerfeld’s Royal Oak came up for auction, and so did Gérald Genta’s. We took a close look at the Royal Oak A2, the oldest known example of the original 15202 reference, and then we went ahead and broke open the entire history of the watch in the latest episode of Reference Points. There’ve already been so many memorable moments dedicated to the Royal Oak this year, and yet today’s announcement might just be my favorite.
The Royal Oak has always been controversial. The original 1972 design was just so incredibly, inherently subversive for its era, and somehow a half-century later I find that it continues to stand alone in the luxury sport-watch segment, surrounded by a sea of pretenders. In my view, not a single competitor has come close to channeling both virility and elegance in the same package to the same degree. And the blue-ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar brings out the best of both of those qualities, combining the ultra-hard ceramic material and aggressive styling with the same high-grade movement and the same delicate brushing and polishing of the case and bracelet that Royal Oak collectors expect.

It’s hard not to see a watch like this as a certain type of pinnacle for the Royal Oak anniversary. There’s a futuristic material that’s incredible difficult to work, now combined with one of the most traditional and elaborate complications, all inside of a genuinely iconic package.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph

Audemars Piguet just announced three new variations of the Code 11.59 collection, demonstrating the Swiss watchmaker’s dedication to the line as it celebrates the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary. The three different just-released Code 11.59 watches all iterate aesthetically on existing Code 11.59 models in dramatically different ways.

The new Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked features a blue ceramic case that’s encompassed by an 18-karat white gold bezel, lugs
and caseback. The movement inside is the hand-wound openworked tourbillon-equipped caliber 2948, which has been comprehensively decorated in numerous shades of blue through a chemical process known as Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD). It’s surrounded by an interior rehaut that’s been blued through chemical vapor deposition (CVD, rather than PVD), while the long, thin handset is made of solid 18-karat pink gold and the balance wheel is executed in a matching gold tone.
The architecture of the caliber 2948, newly executed in the bright blue hue, is completely unique and almost irresistible in its boldness. The movement measures just 3.65mm in height, which means the impressive sense of three-dimensionality the movement conveys is almost magical.

Slightly less complicated but just as visually compelling is the new Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon with a black ceramic central case, an 18-karat white gold bezel and lugs, and a rich dark dial made of solid black onyx. The big news on this model, for those who have followed the 11.59 series since its 2019 debut, is that AP decided to kill off the applied hour markers on the dial, allowing the stone dial material to move to center stage.

AP worked with the La Chaux-de-Fonds-based dial maker Someco to carve the dial out of a single black onyx stone. The dial is first cut into a thin disc, ground, sanded, and polished before ending up in the two-tone case. Each dial is naturally unique, which means that there is potentially endless room for aesthetic variation. The Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon with a black onyx dial is not a limited edition release.
Finally, the most complicated release of the day, the new Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, is focused almost entirely on executing a comprehensive two-tone design. Featuring a combination of black ceramic and 18-karat pink gold throughout the case and (almost nonexistent) dial, the new hybrid chronograph-tourbillon watch is really, more than anything, a showcase for the powerhouse movement inside.

Opting for Audemars Piguet caliber 2952, the watch features two of the most complicated creations out there – a flying tourbillon and a flyback chronograph. The overall movement architecture features highly openworked bridges in both black and pink-gold tones, with AP’s watchmakers noting specifically that a total of 111 V-angles on the movement were sandblasted, satin-finished, and polished by hand. The entire decoration is said to have taken over 70 total hours of work to complete.
The original batch of six Code 11.59 models released by Audemars Piguet on the eve of SIHH 2019 was a touch too baroque for my personal design sensibilities, but I’ve greatly appreciated the offbeat and colorful directions the collection has gone since then. Remember the Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie? Today’s releases fall more into the latter camp: electric blue skeletons, blacked-out dials, and a highly complicated two-tone creation all are conceptually and aesthetically interesting enough to stand on their own.
If I had to pick one of the three new watches for my personal collection, I think I’d have to go with the Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon Chronograph. It’s such a complicated watch, with an irresistible movement design featuring bridges galore, that I think I’d have a nearly endless amount of fun watching the flying tourbillon and flyback chronograph do what they do best. The electric-blue Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked is a close second though, simply for its intense, out-of-the-box colorway.

Stay tuned for a closer look at all three of these watches, plus an overview of the broader evolution of Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 collection since its initial 2019 release, later this week.

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43

What’s cooler than being cool? ICE BLUE! The people have spoken and made it clear that Ice Blue dials are in. When Breitling announced the ice blue Chronomat in Summer 2021, the watch world went nuts. Since then, the clamor for light blue dial watches has only increased in ferocity with the Tiffany Nautilus, Omega x Swatch Mission to Uranus, and even Breitling’s own Top Time Triumph LE lighting up the internet. So, watch fans should rejoice at the news of the all-new Breitling B01 Navitimer Chronographs which include two all-new references featuring the iciest dials around.

Situated in a thinner case than previous versions, the new Ice Blue 2022 Navitimers are available in a 43mm size on either strap or bracelet. Black subdials and a bidirectional slide rule bezel ensure a high-contrast look while the date feature has been moved from the controversial 4:30 spot and newly integrated as part of the 6 o’clock subdial. Additionally, the Breitling logo has been updated from Brietling’s cursive “B”, to the famous Breitling wings and the second-hand has also been cleaned up with a more streamlined shape. Finally, the crown and pushers have undergone a slight adjustment, with a slightly more onion-shaped crown and smaller, flatter pushers.

All-in, the Ice Breitling B01 Navitimer Chronographs might be the answer to watch fans prayers for a high-end, non-limited edition light blue dial option.
For 2022, Breitling has redesigned its iconic Navitimer Chronograph watch, which for decades has been a staple of high-end tool timepieces originally designed for commercial airline pilots in the early 1950s. The Navitimer has seen countless iterations over the years and is one of the world’s most recognized luxury sports watches. It has not, however, experienced a recent makeover under Breitling’s current stewardship by Georges Kern. The updated Breitling Navitimer for 2022 is known officially as the Navitimer B01 Chronograph and comes in three case sizes with a variety of different dial options, many of which have never been offered in a Navitimer watch before. The aBlogtoWatch team was able to go hands-on with all of the new Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph watches and below is our take on this modern version of a timeless classic.
The new for 2022 Breitling B01 Navitimer Chronographs comes just in time for the 70th anniversary of the original Navitimer from 1952. The collection is as dazzling and handsome as ever, while Breilting hopes the invigorated new colors and styling will help the thinking person’s tool watch appeal to a more general luxury audience. There are no fewer than 15 new versions available at launch, and the full pricing for all of the latest Breitling B01 Chronograph watches is below:

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT Goes Green

Announced in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak Concept line, this is the latest expression of one of Audemars Piguet’s most wild watches, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT. Never one to skip the chance to celebrate an anniversary, the Concept line was created as a special project to mark the Royal Oak’s 30th birthday in 2002. Since then, the Concept line has operated as the most avant-garde branch of the Royal Oak family tree, offering very limited production of equally bold and decidedly tech-forward modern Royal Oaks.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT debuted in 2018, but the general format dates back to the non-flying Concept GMT Tourbillon of 2011. This model, complete with a flying tourbillon surrounded by green ceramic and pink gold accents, uses a 44mm case that is 16.1mm thick and has been fitted with sapphire crystals front and back to show off its remarkable movement.
While this is essentially a new color for an existing model range (AP last offered this model with bright blue accents in 2020), it is also a good opportunity to revisit this model’s functionality, all thanks to the remarkable AP caliber 2954 movement.

The 2954 is something extra special and the flying tourbillon is only the start. With some 348 parts, the 2954 is hand wound and, get this, offers a maximum power reserve of 237 hours. Or about 10 days. Ticking at 3 Hz, the movement also supports a second time zone via a clever pair of stacked discs positioned at three o’clock on the dial.

The top disc is made of sapphire and has a transparent background, showing the hours 1-12 and thus rotating once every 12 hours. You can advance the indicated hour – to quickly track another time zone – by pressing the green ceramic pusher located just below the crown on the case flank. Beneath the sapphire hour disc is a second disc (this time made of brass) that manages an indication of day/night by only rotating once every 24 hours. Very clever and rather subtle.
Finally, the movement also features a function indicator that shows what function the crown is currently controlling. “H” for time setting, “R” for winding up the power reserve, and “N” for neutral. All of this complexity comes together in a skeletonized movement with, for this reference, green and pink gold accents tucked into black PVD-treated bridges.

While production of this CHF 198,900 travel watch is not specifically limited to a numbered edition, AP is not planning to make very many.
As something of a nerd for GMT watches – up to, and most certainly including those I will never be able to afford – I love that a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT even exists. It’s a truly wild design that does a great job of modernizing the Royal Oak while still connecting to both the original Genta design and Audemars Piguet’s longstanding talent for complicated watchmaking.

Sure it’s big, costs more than my first house, and is likely destined only for serious AP collections, but the Concept line managed to do something new and special back in 2002 and I’d argue – green or otherwise – the whole concept (wink) is aging rather well.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon Titanium

Twenty years ago, Audemars Piguet introduced the first Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept, an extreme-looking watch (both then and today) made of Alacrite 602 and titanium. Alacrite is a lightweight alloy mainly used in the aeronautical industry. Not only was the design extreme, but the movement inside was also rather special. Besides a tourbillon, the Royal Oak Concept from 2002 also featured a Dymograph. The Dymograph indicates the torque of the mainspring at that particular moment.

That watch still looks impressive today. To my delight, Audemars Piguet let me try on its most recent descendant the other day when I was visiting the brand’s museum in Le Brassus. This new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT is unmistakably related to its 20-year-old brother. The similarities are obvious but no less impactful. Over the years, Audemars Piguet has introduced several Royal Oak Concept watches, including the incredibly impressive Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher. With the Royal Oak Concept watches, Audemars Piguet has introduced technical and aesthetically groundbreaking designs. Today, the manufacture from Le Brassus introduces the latest addition, the 44mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT .

The large and complex case is made of titanium, but this time, it is enrichened by a beautiful green ceramic bezel. Camo-style green can also be found on the dial, but more about the movement and skeletonized dial later. What makes the use of ceramic so incredibly nice on this Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT (but also on the recently introduced blue Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ref. 26579CS that we wrote about here) is that the finishing is identical to that of the steel and precious-metal Royal Oak models. It’s all finished by hand, something that perhaps contrasts a bit with the use of “modern” material like ceramic. The green ceramic (ZrO2) consists of secret ingredients, but AP lets us know that the ceramic components only get this deep green color once they have been sintered at more than 1,400°C. Getting the right color and consistently doing so is not an easy task. The secret composition of the materials and the specific sintering temperatures are of the essence here. Caliber 2954 at the heart of the watch can be admired from both sides thanks to the skeletonized dial. The movement has been designed with black PVD-treated bridges and green-colored inserts, which are achieved through a Chemical Vapor Deposition process that adds a thin green layer to the parts. The green components of the dial match nicely with the green ceramic bezel and, of course, the green rubber strap. The hand-wound AP caliber 2954 features a flying tourbillon and a second-timezone (GMT) function. At 6 o’clock on the dial, you will find the letters H (setting the time), N (neutral), and R (winding the movement). We’ve seen this before (including on watches from other brands like Grönefeld), but it remains a useful and attractive feature. With the green pusher at 4 o’clock, you advance the hour hand. At 3 o’clock, you will find the second-timezone display that consists of two discs. One is sapphire with the numerals for the hours, and it rotates once every 12 hours. An additional day/night disc rotates every 24 hours, indicating daytime in white and nighttime in green. Lastly, the AP caliber 2954 has two barrels that give the watch a power reserve of approximately ten days. There’s a very clever mechanism behind this, providing a constant force for 237 hours of autonomy. The gear train gets its energy from the double barrels at exactly the same time using a clever mechanism. This solution reduces pressure in the gearing and friction in the barrels and increases precision, power reserve, and reliability.

To complement the green and black design elements of the watch and movement, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT decided to use pink gold for the hands, the applied AP logo at 12 o’clock, and the flying tourbillon cage. The green crown has a pink gold insert as well. Although the name might suggest otherwise, AP’s Royal Oak Concept watches are available to customers. They come at a high price point, but that’s what you have to accept when you want to be at the forefront of groundbreaking watches, I guess. Over the last 20 years, I have come across a handful of Royal Oak Concept watches “in the flesh”, and they always made a lasting impression on me. They are so out of the ordinary that you won’t quickly forget about these special Audemars Piguet watches.

Versace Medusa Lock Icon Watch

Versace, through long-standing design and manufacturing partner Timex Group, has been producing wristwatches for some time. In the pantheon of “fashion watches,” where does Versace exist in comparison to its many fashion house competitors who also have their own versace watches? The famed Italian fashion maker run by the sister (Donatella) of the founder who was murdered years back in Miami, Florida has been humming along with its distinctive aesthetic, which often revolves around the motif of the Medusa from ancient mythology. Today, I look at a women’s Versace wristwatch, the reference VERF000818 Versace Medusa Stud Icon.

What I think a lot of people don’t quite understand about a lot of fashion watches is exactly who designs them. There might be this perception that the fashion house itself designs and produces the watches, or that they design and then have an external supplier produce the watches. Neither of that is true in this instance. What groups such as Timex and Fossil (as well as Movado) have historically done, to great success, is contract with fashion brands to handle the entirety of wristwatch design and production. All fashion houses need to do, in most instances, is receive, market, and sell the products. This particular model worked extremely well for Timex Group competitor Fossil Group, in the example of Michael Kors watches.
My belief, however, is that Timex has been designing and producing Versace watches for Versace for years longer than Fossil’s relationship with Michael Kors. versace watches and Salvatore Ferragamo probably represent the current highest-end names that Timex produces fashion-focused products for, but their relationship with fashion labels across the globe goes deep. But also local. I think, perhaps, the most telling part of the Versace watches story is that Timex’s design headquarters isn’t located in Connecticut, the United States where the Timex main headquarters is, but rather across the pond in Milan, Italy.

Being in Milan offers Timex a few benefits when it comes to relationships with the fashion labels it does business with. First, it is able to work very closely with their teams when it comes to product design and concepts, and second, it allows Timex to benefit from the design and marketing talent that exists in the city. If Timex, or any other group for that matter, wants to design marketable fashion watches, does it not need to at least make sure the products it makes fits logically within the brand whose stories and websites will carry it? That challenge — and to come in at desired price points — is incredibly difficult to succeed at. This is because clients look at a product like this Versace Medusa Stud Icon women’s watch and must feel that it is both a good watch and a logically compelling Versace product. The important takeaway message here is that Versace watches are designed to, first and foremost, be timepieces, which is why a third-party partner makes the most sense to help the fashion label get the best product possible.
The name of this Versace women’s watch is a bit amusing to me because of how literal it is. Taken any other way, the “Stud Icon” watch sounds like something a man, not a woman, might wear. The term is really a comment on how the watch prominently features Versace’s Medusa iconic Medusa motif, in the form of the image on studs that are used across the fashion label. You’ really need to know that, and you’d also need to know that lots of other Versace watches that also prominently feature the Medusa stud icon don’t actually have any of those terms in the name. If it were up to me, I would have focus group-tested these names a bit more. At least when it comes to matching the design of the watches with the fashion brand, all the hard work was done correctly.
Visually, the concept works in this timepiece, and I like this women’s watch because it is just as much decorative bracelet as it is wristwatch. The round dial, along with the round “stud” links, makes up the majority of the composition, with a more traditional watch bracelet underneath and mostly there for both wearing comfort and to make sure the bracelet can be sized to someone’s wrist. What I like about the design overall is that by using relatively few shapes and themes, the repetition of those shapes makes for an interesting wearable that is both utilitarian and fashionable.
versace watches currently produces (through the Timex Group) four versions of the Medusa Stud Icon. This reference VERF00818 is two-toned with polished steel and steel IP-coated with yellow gold tone (actually, Versace refers to the color as “champagne”). This is the only two-toned version of the watch, as the others are either all yellow gold tones with a matching yellow gold tone or black dial, and an all rose gold toned model. The case is 28mm-wide (water resistant to 50 meters) with an attractive but simple dial powered by a Swiss-made quartz movement (a Ronda caliber 751). Over the dial is a sapphire crystal.

The hands and four hour markers have a neat texture (small repeating letter Vs) to them, which actually adds to the contrast value, making them more legible. I would actually like to see more men’s watches use techniques like this to enhance the visual effect, as well as the legibility of timepiece. The female wearer modeling the watch really liked the overall comfort and style of the watch. The personality and its visual distinctiveness (along with comfort) were all plus factors. The only downside for her was the lack of additional hour markers that would make reading the time a bit more straight forward. I don’t disagree, and these are some of those “style over substance” considerations that happen all the time is wristwatch design.

One of the interesting things about what happens to these fashion house watches when they come to market, is that no matter how much time or detail is put into them, there is virtually storytelling by the brand itself when it comes to discussing the merits of these products. There are probably fewer than 100 total words on the Versace website that attempt to explain this watch, why Versace even has watches or any substance whatsoever to help convince customers. Granted, Versace and most Italian fashion labels dedicate equally little effort to explaining their other products. That said, time and time again in today’s world, we find that stories and substance sell watches, not mere looks or brand associations.

I like writing about women’s watches that I personally like to see on women. I don’t really care what brand they come from or the price point — though more accessible price points are more interesting to me because I like the idea that a lot of people can wear or enjoy the product. Women rarely purchase timepieces for similar reasons as men, so the storytelling and concepts around them need to be different. Unlike men, women tend to immediately respond well to watches that are as much jewelry as they are timepieces. In this case, you have a blend of three things. First is the fact that the Medusa Stud Icon is a reliable timepiece.

U-Boat Darkmoon 40

With its deep, lustrous oil-filled dial, vibrant colours and mercurial love-it-or-hate-it compensation bubble, the U-Boat Italo Fontana Darkmoon watch offers an exciting and genuinely different timepiece.
That playful air-bubble and deep, rich oil-filled dial make this timepiece instantly memorable and mesmerizingly engaging. We hope you enjoy our intro to a breathtaking on-wrist experience.
Read on, and then enjoy Jack Biggs’ popular U-Boat Darkmoon unboxing video on YouTube to understand why. Or if you just can’t wait to treat yourself or someone special, choose yours now.

You may see references to the ‘U-Boat Dark Moon Watch’ or ‘U Boat Dark Moon’; it’s easily done. However, according to U-Boat, Darkmoon is one word. This is the U-Boat Italo Fontana Darkmoon and, once seen, it’s unforgettable. Why dark moon? Because, to quote the manufacturer, it’s ‘A collection coming from the moon directly from its darker side’.

With this desirable range of handcrafted watches – proudly ‘Made in Tuscany’ – Italo Fontana has staked his claim for a slice of lunar-related watchmaking. We think they’re onto a winner. So does Paul Buchanan, whose encounter with an early Darkmoon led him to become the Italian watchmaker’s UK sales manager.
Paul takes up the story: ‘Just over two years ago I met Richard, the U-Boat’s distributor in the UK and Ireland. He knew I’d grown disillusioned with the watch trade as brands just copied each other time and time again. He also knew I was seeking an inspirational brand. After teasing and tantalising me with U-Boat’s beautiful Chimera, he followed up with this watch with a domed red glass that was stunning and mesmerising in every way possible. While Richard talked I just sat there with the watch on my wrist and looked at it from every angle. I bought that watch, one of the original Darkmoons, then became the brand’s UK sales manager. Two watches is all it took and the U-Boat Darkmoon red 44mm IPB is still my go-to watch of choice.’
The rich colour of this oil-filled beauty was just one of the features that mesmerised Paul and drew him to the brand. As soon as you see these amazing watches you notice how a Darkmoon’s striking dial delivers a ‘wide eyed’, spellbindingly-three-dimensional depth of colour and heightened legibility. From first glance, it’s obvious that they’re very different to the information-heavy visual complexity of other U-Boat classics such as the U-Boat U-65 skeleton watch.

Since the first Darkmoon, adoption of sapphire crystal and dial colour intensity refinements for better readability make a great product even more impressive. And then there’s the signature compensating bubble moving around the dial in its crystal clear oil bath. It helps amplify the view of the two hands – there’s no sweep-second hand – which appear to float free above the dial.
TikTok watch influencer Jack Biggs enthuses about these features in our U-Boat Dark Moon unboxing video. He says: ‘an additional benefit to the oil bath is that it magnifies the vision of the hands and compensates for temperature between zero to 60 degrees. I feel as though this gives it a more three-dimensional look to the watch and it gives it that deep feel on the dial.’

U-Boat themselves say the oil-filling gives ‘a surprisingly amplified view of the hands, which seem to float free as in absence of the glass’. It’s all possible through the proprietary oil bath technology pioneered in the Capsoil watch that premiered on Instagram in November 2018.

Since then, U-Boat has clearly worked hard on their second oil-filled product range. The result, Darkmoon, is now in its second iteration. It sits irresistibly alongside the original Capsoil Chronograph to dominate Watch Pilot’s U-Boat Italo Fontana product page where you can browse and buy the U-Boat watch of your choice.
At the time of writing, as Jack Biggs explains, the range revolves around Black, Cardinal Red, Elegant Brown, Noble Green and Imperial Blue Darkmoon watches. Naturally, they’re all equipped with the company’s signature left-handed ‘destro’ screw-down winding crown. And 50 m (5 ATM) water resistance, which is enough to handle splashes, gentle swimming and cold showers.

Depending on the model, strap and bracelet options include stylish light mesh, laser-cut handmade, hand-finished calf leather, and a vulcanised rubber strap embossed on both sides with the U-BOAT logotype in deep relief.
U-Boat’s watches are renowned for imposing case diameters – no-one goes unnoticed when wearing one! Though smaller than watches such as the 47mm U-47 Classico, 50mm Flight deck pilot’s watch or massive 55mm-diameter U-1001, the latest Darkmoon’s 44mm case guarantees attention grabbing wrist presence.

Such distinctive dial design deserves a durable, visually contrasting case finish. Depending on the watch, look forward to AISI 316L stainless steel with or without an IP Bronze (e.g. the 8467/B Men’s Brown Darkmoon) or IP Black coating (e.g. the 8464/MT Men’s Black Darkmoon).

Unsurprisingly, U-Boat Italo Fontana make much of how the Darkmoon dial, hands and quartz movement are all immersed in a special proprietary oil bath. More about that later. First, here’s a word about the movement powering Darkmoon.
Visit the well-rated Calibre-corner website, or the website of Ronda AG and you’ll quickly discover that the Darkmoon’s 712.3 movement is a reassuringly tried and tested Swiss-made workhorse of the Swiss watch movement industry.

With the 712.3 inside your U-Boat watch, you’re in good company. It’s a proven two-handed 26mm-diameter quartz movement from a brand that also powers watches from names like TAG-Heuer, Raymond Weil and Yema. As the company explains, ‘Ronda produces mechanical and quartz watch movements with Swiss precision for numerous leading watch brands. Our products can be found inside brand name watches ranging from elegant and sporty timepieces to stylish fashion accessories to luxurious models.’
Since watchmaking’s quartz revolution in the 1970s, the accuracy and reliability of these movements means a battery is needed.

At first glance, with Darkmoon’s dial and movement immersed in oil, changing the battery every few years would appear tricky. Because of the oil bath, early versions of the U-Boat Capsoil – this sounds like a portmanteau word derived from ‘encapsulated oil’ – needed specialist factory-attention back in Italy when the battery ran out. The same applied to early versions of the U-Boat Darkmoon watch.

Later Capsoil iterations and the latest Darkmoon get round this with a separate user-accessible battery chamber in the caseback. Kept oil-free by the innovative internal locking-ring system, it’s a welcome improvement over the first generation Darkmoon.
Look closely at Darkmoon’s caseback in Joe’s video and you’ll see the clearly identified battery port engraved with the battery identifier – SR936SW. This, and a different surface profile, differentiates the battery port from the (upper) oil regulation port. According to the manufacturer’s instruction manual, that one’s for use, ‘exclusively by U-BOAT specialized technicians’. In case you decide to explore, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

In his video, Jack raves about this important product improvement: ‘…previously on the traditional U Boat Dark Moon watches they only had one port. To change the battery you actually had to send it back to Italy, which could have been a massive inconvenience because it took about six to eight weeks to replace, which can be very annoying for those that are spending a lot of money on a watch and can’t wear it for a certain period of time.’ Now, thankfully, having a dry battery port makes it easy to replace your U-Boat’s battery. In fact, it’s probably easier than removing the caseback and changing the battery on a conventional quartz watch. It’s just another example of the U-Boat detailing and continuous product refinement that we’ve come to expect from the Tuscan company. Chances are you already know about U-Boat Watch Italo Fontana and how the Italian watchmaker has grown since 2000.

That was when Italo Fontana discovered grandfather Ilvo’s 1942 designs detailing an innovative watch for the Italian Navy, the Regia Marina.

For whatever reason, the design didn’t go into production. Instead, decades later, it inspired U-Boat’s founder to create his watch brand. Since then, Italo Fontana’s hand-crafted luxury watches, with their large cases, distinctive left-handed crowns, and signature retro-nautical – ‘Steampunk’ even, according to some commentators – designs, have built a loyal following. Compared with many U-Boat designs, the Darkmoon may appear remarkably restrained. However, its striking sunburst – U-Boat call it soleil – dial, under that seductively curvaceous domed sapphire crystal, is anything but low-key. Here’s what Rob Corder, editor of respected watch-industry magazine WatchPro, wrote in September 2020:

‘U-Boat has added to the Capsoil family this year with a sub-collection called Dark Moon [sic] — a reference to the blackness of their dials being like the dark side of the moon — and even given them a horror inflection with a blood red and black model. Mr Fontana channelling his inner werewolf, perhaps.’

It’s interesting, but not surprising, that the rich-red glow of the magnified dial on that particular model evoked such a visceral response. It was the same when we showed the range to Michael Langley, an experienced visual designer, founder of Uchi Clothing and creator of the Uchi Horology Series of watch art and clothing: ‘When I look at a piece like the red-on-black U-Boat 8466/MT,’ he says, ‘I’m impressed by the striking, visually-bold design that’s both practical looking and visually arresting. The liquid filled domed crystal and huge dial numbers increase the submarine vibe. If any of the Darkmoon range suggests such a strong connection to U-Boat’s traditional retro-nautical style it’s surely this one.’

For anyone attempting to understand why certain watch designs work so well, Watches Tell More Than Time, written by industrial design guru Del Coates in 2003 is a useful reference. Dipping into this book was a no-brainer when planning to write about Darkmoon. Gazing at the Darkmoon’s peripatetic compensating bubble reminds of Movado’s Nathan George Horwitt-designed Museum watch from 1947, with its single round ‘midday sun’ motif at 12 o’clock. To quote Coates:

‘The [Museum watch] earned its status, instead, on aesthetic grounds, by virtue of the seminal innovation of a numberless face…it has become one of the most memorable and emulated timepieces of all time’. The U-Boat Darkmoon may not be the most sophisticated oil-filled watch ever made, or the most expensive. But by incorporating that essential compensating bubble into such a visually deep and impressive ‘high value-contrast’ dial, it might position U-Boat as a design leader for others to try and copy in future.

And then, thinking of horological design leaders who’ve experimented with oil-filling, there’s Benoît Mintiens’ innovative Ressence brand… We won’t be the first commentators to be reminded of Ressence’s breathtaking – and seriously expensive – timepieces by Capsoil and Darkmoon. Actually, though they famously use oil-filled technology, they differ from the U-Boat watch in a couple of important ways.

Firstly, there’s the technology. The U-Boat Darkmoon completely immerses its Ronda quartz movement and dial in oil. Compare that to the TYPE 3 and TYPE 5 Ressence. They combine an air-filled chamber for the mechanical movement with an oil-filled upper chamber that delivers their trademark ‘water drop’ image projection effect. A sophisticated micro-magnetic transmission connects the two chambers. The other big difference is price. As Watch Pilot co-founder Tim Harrison explains: ‘A Ressence costs the same as a mid-size Audi, but you can buy U-Boat’s Darkmoon from us for well under £1000! You even get some Tuscan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ too – that’s all’avanguardia della tecnica in Italian! It’s an exciting prospect when you remember that you‘re buying into this rather arcane oil-filled horological technology. And the stunning visual impact it makes possible.’ Is the U-Boat Darkmoon a ‘poor man’s Ressence’? We’ll let you be the judge of that. What we will say is that oil-filled watches have actually been around for decades, albeit as a specialised and exclusive horological sub-set… There’s Ressence of course, as well as anti-mist, reflection-free underwater mission watches such as Sinn’s UX. The rest, including timepieces such as the French Beauchat Genesis 4000 HPS, or Hydroil-filled Bell & Ross Hydromax 11100M, complete an exclusive club. But none, not even used examples, can be had for anywhere near the price of U-Boat’s latest Darkmoon. As mentioned earlier, the moving compensating bubble on the Darkmoon (and Capsoil’s) face is a constant reminder of the genuinely-iconic Movado Museum watch.

Why’s it there? The bubble, which evokes strongly polarised responses from watch-forum participants, isn’t just a designer’s idle aesthetic indulgence. Instead, though having the capacity to delight or torment for hours that bubble exists for an important technical reason. It provides compensation when the oil expands or contracts with changes in temperature within the manufacturer’s recommended operating range of 0 ° and +60 °C.

We can only speculate about how many Darkmoon wearers will be unable to resist trying to hold the bubble directly above their watch’s centre post. Is this a unisex U-Boat watch? Though U-Boat offers watches – such as its 8474 Rainbow Ladies Mother of Pearl – specifically targeted at women, it’s no secret that its primary audience has traditionally been young and male.

However, current fashion-forward watch-wearing regularly sees larger men’s watches gracing female wrists. According to U-Boat’s UK importers, with a 44 mm case that wears smaller than its dimensions suggest, Darkmoon is definitely wowing both sexes. Make no mistake; this is arguably one of the best U-Boat watches for women at the moment. After all, why should such a visually-engaging horological objet be reserved for the boys, particularly in a world where women happily rock men’s Rolexes and other luxury timepieces?

Clearly, brand chemistry that endears U-Boat to male celebs such as Sylvester Stallone and Nicholas Cage also works powerfully on their female counterparts such as Israeli model Bar Refaeli and actress Lindsay Lohan. How about you? So that’s the U-Boat Darkmoon. Do you love watches with a strong retro-nautical story, unmissable visual impact, and that conversation-starting oil-filled technology? If so, this piece, with its fascinating design and engaging ‘Made in Tuscany’ story could be for you.

Enjoy Jack’s YouTube video and soak up his infectious enthusiasm for these breathtaking timepieces. Then browse our collection of U-Boat watches for men – and women – to discover the wonderful dark side of the Darkmoon collection for yourself – or as a gift for someone special.

Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT White

Bell & Ross has recently announced a new version of the BR 05 GMT, which features a silver-white dial and adds a second color option to the GMT models of the integrated-bracelet styling of the BR 05 lineup. With a legible red 24-hour hand, this caller GMT looks great with a silver dial and is also the first time that B&R designers have offered a BR 05 in a color that wasn’t black and blue. I think they chose well.
Like the black dial BR 05 GMT that was launched last year, the BR 05 GMT White uses a 41mm steel case and can be had with a full steel bracelet or a rubber strap that is designed to integrate directly with the case and its non-traditional lug shape. The case is 11.07mm thick and has a screw-down crown, 100 meters of water resistance, and sapphire crystals front and back (with the back offering a view of the BR 05 GMT’s 360-degree oscillating weight).

Inside, we find a GMT movement that is based on the Sellita SW-330 and which Bell & Ross calls the BR-Cal 325. It’s an automatic movement that ticks at 4 Hz, has ~42 hours of power reserve, and features a date at three along with a caller-style 24-hour independently adjustable GMT function. This means that you can adjust your view of a second timezone without changing or disrupting the main time display. While somewhat more cumbersome to use when actively changing time zones, this GMT function is very handy for keeping track of a second time zone.
While I remain a complete sucker for a white-dialed GMT, that’s not the only reason that I figured this new Bell & Ross was worth a closer look – I’ve been curious about the BR 05 since it was launched in 2019 with a 40mm automatic model. I like the design, and the sort of instrument-like take on the Genta-derived integrated bracelet sports watch format. Furthermore, the sizing seems good and they appear to look great on wrist. Bell & Ross has always been of interest to me, but I’ve never found one of their quirky square-cased models that actually worked really well on my bony wrist. Perhaps a bracelet would make all the difference.
And now they have a GMT in a white dial. Sure, the dial and hand design have borrowed a good deal from the Explorer II, but they are far from the only brand to find some inspiration via the Rolex catalog, and I’d argue that the square case and general aesthetic insulate the BR 05 GMT from feeling altogether too similar. Furthermore, I like that they maintain much of the Bell & Ross design language in the dial (especially with the large Arabic markers) and the use of the white/grey 24-hour rehaut.

At $5,000 and using a third-party movement, the BR 05 GMT has stiff competition. Collectors with more conventional tastes would likely opt for a Tudor Black Bay GMT, which offers local jumping (flyer) functionality, classic GMT styling, and a case of the same width (though a good bit thicker). Additionally, and I’m not comparing the two on build quality or general aesthetic, if you simply want a caller GMT, Seiko will happily sell you a lovely model with the same functionality for around $500.
But let’s be fair, the BR 05 GMT offers an entirely different look and feel to the above-mentioned competition and I’d argue that Bell & Ross is both not new to this price point and that cost sensitivity is likely not a core concern for B&R’s intended audience. As a guy who has long had the BR 03-92 Diver hanging out rent-free in my mind, this new BR 05 GMT marks the first time I’ve had anything more than professional curiosity in the lineup and I think it’s a handsome addition that I’d love to try on my own wrist. But what do you think – is the BR 05 GMT a good candidate for a hands-on follow-up? Let me know in the comments.