Sandra Lane

Posts by Sandra:

19.04.2018

HANDS-ON: The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Sandblasted – same Octo, completely new look

Bulgari blew us away last year with their Octo Finissimo Automatic – that mind-boggling thinness; the incredible lightness of being at one with its titanium case and bracelet, feeling it drape around the wrist. For Baselworld 2018, it’s back – this time in full gold. And if you think “solid gold bracelet watch” means 1980s-style bling, think again. Vital statistics In all respects, except the case and bracelet material, the new model is the same watch as before – equipped with that super-skinny (briefly record-breaking) manufacture self-winding calibre BVL 138. At only 2.23mm thick with a single barrel, it packs…

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13.04.2018

HANDS-ON: The Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5740 – the Nautilus we had to have

One of the big surprises of Baselworld 2018 was Patek Philippe’s decision to add a grand complication model – specifically a perpetual calendar – to the Nautilus line. Or was it? Nautilus-with-complication is an old story (travel time, chronograph, annual calendar have all featured over the years) and the pre-Basel rumour mill was promoting the ‘perpetual’ idea pretty heavily. So when Patek unveiled the ref. 5740 there was a definite sense of “Surprise – what surprise?” Vital statistics The movement is one of Patek’s all-time greats: the ultra-thin self-winding calibre 240 Q – also found in the current collection in the…

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09.04.2018

HANDS-ON: Titanium case and a new style dial – the Breguet Marine 5517

Last year, Breguet gave us a first taste of their new design for the Marine collection. However, the new look didn’t get the massive attention you might expect for an update of a pillar collection. Not because it wasn’t noteworthy but because the new look was revealed in the form of the Marine Équation Marchante 5887 – and when you get a complication as mouth-watering as that, the aesthetics tend to play second fiddle. In contrast, the new Marine  5517, released at Baselworld 2018, places the emphasis firmly on the design. Vital Statistics Set in a 40mm case, the movement…

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02.04.2018

HANDS-ON: The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s

We’ve come to associate Fifty Fathoms with minimalistic dials, so this Day Date model – one of three new pieces released at Baselworld 2018 to mark the 65th anniversary of the original diving watch – is a real shift in style. This doesn’t mean that Blancpain are suddenly getting all decorative, though; rather, they have looked to their 1970s archive for the design cues. Vital Statistics While the aesthetic is retro, everything else is bang-up to the minute, with all of the technical advances that Blancpain have brought to their dive watches in recent years. The movement is based on…

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25.03.2018

HANDS-ON: The Omega Seamaster Professional 300M – An all-time classic gets fresh

We all love a birthday. And watch brands love them as much as anyone – an excuse to celebrate, a hook for a new collection. At Baselworld 2018 Omega have marked the 25th anniversary of the Seamaster Professional Diver 300M (aka the James Bond watch) with a revamp. It was the SMP that kicked off Omega’s relationship with the Bond franchise, becoming something of a late-1990s icon as Pierce Brosnan wore a series of tricked-out, weaponised versions of the watch over the course of four movies. Vital statistics With 14 new variations – six in stainless steel and eight in…

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15.02.2018

INSIGHT: The craft of Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels have long been recognised as one of the world’s most creative high jewellery houses. Taking inspiration from nature, magic and fairy tales, the Parisian Maison creates complex jewels of unusually high technical and design content – so that even the most extravagant pieces have a lightness, charm and wit. In recent years, Van Cleef & Arpels have also become recognised for their artistic and highly creative watches. But it is no mere arriviste in the world of horology. In the 1920s the famously elegant Louis Arpels designed the Ruban (‘ribbon’) watch, with a rectangular case that…

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09.02.2018

HANDS-ON: Cartier’s incredible Révélation d’une Panthère

Over the past decade, while earning its chops as a serious technical watchmaker, Cartier has demonstrated time and again its mastery of the artistic crafts – métiers d’art in the Francophone world of watchmaking. It has taken traditional techniques and gone further – for example, using straw and flower petals for marquetry. It has also remastered 3000-year-old techniques that were virtually extinct, including granulation – a manner of creating surface texture using tiny gold beads. As a result, we have seen a series of achingly beautiful dials – exquisitely detailed, a celebration of human skill. Beautiful they are, but quite…

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07.02.2018

INSIGHT: Designing A. Lange & Söhne – part 4, colour, material and finish

Think of Lange’s colour palette and the word ‘sober’ probably springs to mind. Or restrained. Limited. Calm. Muted. Subdued. Discreet. Anything but vivid and daring. Now, let’s for a moment think not of A. Lange & Söhne but only of the colours: white, black, grey (dials); black again, brown, (straps); pink gold, white gold (platinum looking more or less the same), a rare dash of yellow gold. Yes, there are some exceptions (we’ll come to those later), but put Lange’s entire catalogue of the past 20-plus years into a flip-book and that’s pretty much what you get. Based on those…

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01.02.2018

INSIGHT: Designing A. Lange & Söhne – part 1, design approach & method

“Money likes silence.” Several years ago, a Russian collector by the name of Nikolai (he prefers not to publish his surname) was telling me why he’s so keen on A. Lange & Söhne, and I was struck by that part of his reply. While he meant it to sum up the ‘stealth’ appeal of Lange’s designs (discreet elegance; the antithesis of vulgarity), it also begged the question: what does make Lange so distinctive? A. Lange & Söhne is not what we think of as a “design brand” (the term suggests something altogether more conspicuous or self-consciously groovy) and yet its…

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28.01.2018

HANDS-ON: The Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium 

While we all know that Van Cleef & Arpels love a bit of poetry, I get the feeling that they also have a major thing for swans. Huh, what? You know, the way swans glide across the water, all elegance and beauty, no visible effort – while paddling furiously beneath the surface. Well, that’s how Van Cleef & Arpels make their complication watches, whether for men or women. Refined, beautiful, often rather dreamlike on the outside; brain-bendingly complex on the inside. In 2014, you may remember, Van Cleef & Arpels launched an astonishing planetarium watch developed in collaboration with the…

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24.01.2018

HANDS-ON: The A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Outsize Date

While the rules about how a man should dress for formal occasions are more relaxed than in the past, they are still governed by the principles of timelessness: elegance, discretion, refinement and restraint. Self-expression and individuality are all very well, but wearing a chunky, sporty watch with a dinner suit (or even a formal business suit) will forever remain a stylistic faux pas. And that’s as much a question of aesthetics as social convention. It follows that a dress watch should be slim, relatively small (by today’s standards), made of precious metal, and with a white, cream or black dial…

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17.01.2018

HANDS-ON: The Panerai Luminor Base Logo 3 Days Luminor Acciaio (PAM00775)

Not a Radiomir to be seen this year at SIHH; lots of new Luminor Due variations (including a very good 38mm). However, with Angelo Bonati retiring in April from the brand he built from almost-zero to quite the hero, the halo piece has to be that most “Panerai” of all Panerais – the Luminor. Full-fat version, not the slimmed-down Due. A lot of the new PAM00775 is quintessential Luminor and quite a lot is not. There’s the chunky 44mm brushed steel case – as hefty on the wrist as a tool watch should be; a design so strong and confident…

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15.01.2018

HANDS-ON: The green-dialled Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph LE … in steel

As SIHH kicks off, I’m prepared to bet – yes, even on the opening day – that this chronograph will emerge as one of the top watches of the week. Because it’s just so darned gorgeous and it has a great backstory. As you may know, in 2007 Montblanc took over the historic Minerva manufacture and began producing some seriously beautiful high-complication watches – notably the ExoTourbillon and Geospheres series. But a question remained: since Minerva was perhaps the greatest chronograph maker of the 20th century, where were the chronographs? We got the first answer after Jérôme Lambert became CEO…

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23.11.2017

WATCHSPOTTING: The exceptional watches of Dubai Watch Week

While the sun kept shining (of course, it’s Dubai), it rained – rained watches – for the five days of Dubai Watch Week. Organised by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the leading retailer of high-end watches in the UAE, with a strongly educational purpose, it offered a whole range of panel discussions; hands-on workshops led by some of today’s most talented watchmakers, engravers and enamellers; riveting talks on collecting by Christie’s experts; exhibitions (including the 17 GPHG winners, a perspective on time from the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, and stands where you could meet-and-greet and play with amazing watches –…

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08.11.2017

LIST: Pretty Big Bang – 6 Hublot watches perfect for women

“Girls just want watches that look pretty.” So we are told. Of course, most of us want things that look good (and, ah, don’t men want good-looking stuff too?). But “just” pretty? Please. The watch industry has patronised us with that old cliché for too long. For many of us girls, a fashion watch is anathema – and a diamond bezel is not the be-all and end-all either. Bung a bit of glitter on a boring watch and it’s still a boring watch. Assuming that an interest in mechanical timepieces means that we’ll settle for tool watches with zero femininity…

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24.10.2017

INSIGHT: 3 questions about Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona, answered

When I had the opportunity, in Geneva this past summer, to get my hands on the 20th century’s most famous wristwatch and talk about it with the man who will be holding the hammer when the watch is auctioned by Phillips in New York in a few days, my immediate thought was I-love-my-job-I’m-so-lucky. Followed by a few key questions: Would the watch feel more special on the wrist than your typical Cosmo Daytona? Does Aurel Bacs, auctioneer supreme, regard this as anything more than another (likely) record-breaking piece? And, on that note, just why was the pre-sale estimate — “In…

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19.10.2017

LIST: Ultimate transparency — Hublot’s sapphire evolution, in 13 watches

First things first, what is sapphire crystal? Essentially, it’s the same stuff used to make a watch ‘glass’ and display casebacks, formed by crystallising aluminium oxide at very high temperatures to create an extremely hard material. Roughly speaking, it mimics what Earth has taken 400 million or so years to do, to form natural sapphire gemstones. For sapphire-cased watches, the middle, bezel and back are milled from solid blocks of the material. Because it’s almost as hard and scratch-resistant as diamond (9 on the Mohs scale, as opposed to 10 for diamond), the task of milling it into the complex…

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07.09.2017

INSIGHT: The 100 year history of the Cartier Tank, and the people who made it famous

For any designer, regardless of product type, the holy grail is to create an object that so perfectly balances form and function and so elegantly expresses an aesthetic that it will not only last for many generations but will forever look as modern as it did when it left the drawing board. Among those rare products are Le Corbusier’s Chaise LC4, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair and Cartier’s Tank wristwatch. Louis Cartier’s practical, no-frills design has not only become one of the most successful and enduring watches of all time, it has accepted tweaks, updates and experiments without ever…

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23.08.2017

INSIGHT: Why the Hublot Haters have it wrong

So, in some parts of the watchosphere, it’s fashionable to be a Hublot Hater. While I’m not a HH (professional detachment, there are other, better uses for my energy), I will admit to being in the “not loving it” camp for quite some time. It was the bigness, the brashness, the it-watchness of it all. Given the choice, I’ll take off-trend. It was the flashy image – the rappers, footballers and boxers. Which is ironic, really, since Hublot began with Carlo Crocco as the anti-bling of the 1980s. At the time, the watch world was elbow-deep in gold, with wall-to-wall Cartier…

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26.07.2017

HOW TO: Build a potentially profitable vintage watch collection with a budget of $3000-$12000 per piece

A few years ago I attended a talk called, ‘How to Start a Collection’. The focus was on vintage rather than modern and the speaker was a prominent collector, so I looked forward to picking up some great tips. His advice was to anchor a collection with some key pieces, and he gave some examples. Impeccable reasoning, but there was a catch: the name of every piece began with Patek, Rolex or Panerai – and none could be had for less than $80,000. Most were some way north of $100k. So, what if you’re a watch addict of far more…

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Patek Philippe Aquanaut 20th anniversary reference 5168G, white gold blue dial 11.06.2017

OPINION: Buying a new watch? Don’t even think about investment value

Being in the watch writing line of work it’s no great surprise that friends and acquaintances often ask me for watch-buying advice. Call it an occupational hazard, call it a compliment that they should consider my advice worth seeking but (unlike a doctor friend, who gets irritated by being asked for free clinical advice at dinner parties) I never tire of talking about watches. But something has changed: as watch auction prices have gone relentlessly up over the past few years (not to mention the retail prices of many brands), the two questions I’m most often asked are: “I’m tossing…

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