Saturday, February 28, 2015

BeWatching Midnight: Taking Stock Twelve Months On (February 2015)

In August 2014, I posted, “Taking Stock at Six O’Clock:  Beginning My Blogging Career.” I’m now twelve months into the writing and it’s again time to reflect on my experiences. 

From September 2014 until this posting, I’ve written twelve pieces. You could call them my “Midnight Twelve”—not a large number but quantity is not as important to me at this juncture as is continuing to learn more about watches, explore new topics and improve on my singular writing style.   I have many posts in progress  still waiting for their hour hands to strike and be published. 

Thankfully, my ideational flow hasn’t subsided.  At times it seems overwhelming.   I still find my post inspirations coming from movies (Ulee’s Gold); art and exhibitions (Malevich/Tate Museum, Tomi Ungerer/The Drawing Center); advertisements (Jaeger-LeCoultre/The New Yorker); and current events (Je Suis Charlie).

Since my blog’s inception, I’ve had over 6,400 page views as of February 28th. That’s compared to 3,500 at the end of August 2014. Over 50% of my all-time audience has come from the United States; followed by readers in Israel, the Ukraine, Russia and China. But for me, it’s not about stats but about enjoyment and creativity.

One of most important things I’ve realized during the last six months is how important it is to arduously continue expanding my knowledge of both the technical and artistic design aspects of wristwatches.  For example, describing a particular model or collection of watches often takes provocative word flair to be successful.  My Versace posting is an example of this.
I am just now cultivating this expressive approach, but it’s a slow process to concatenate words in a descriptive sequence that provides clarity and evocative punch. This is the reason I introduced a new page to my blog, Poetic Time in January 2015.   On this page you'll find a selection of poems and other prose fragments, some my own—some from others, with time as an important thematic element.

I have been taking advantage of webinars during the last six months.  Two of the most helpful were s “8 Success Factors that Determine Your Blog’s Future” and “Get Your Blog Ready for a Big 2015."  Both of these webinars were offered to Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger Community.  Even if you are not a ProBlogger Community member, Rowse’s blog is a repeated must visit for aspiring and seasoned bloggers.

I also have had the opportunity to use my blogging knowledge to set-up a publications’ site for my husband, James J. Raciti.  This served as a technical refresher for me as it involved a collaborative effort to select and  register another domain name, establish a template, make layout decisions, and add content that promotes his novels, non-fiction and poetry works.

I am expanding my knowledge of digital branding, both from a personal point of view as an emerging blogger and the way wristwatch firms appear to use it in creating consumer awareness of their brands through marketing campaigns. Daniel Rowles' book, Digital Branding: A CompleteStep-by-Step Guide to Strategy, Tactics and Measurement (Kogan Page, 2014) is a terrific, basic introduction to this exploding field.  I’d also recommend Rowles’ Target Internet site which offers free educational content on digital marketing including blog posts and podcasts. 

So what are my intentions for the next six months, now that I’m one blogging year old? I want to refine my focus, research and write postings about:

  • Specific wristwatch innovations and designs, specifically those coming from haute jouilliare houses such as Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier.
  • Specific wristwatch elements such as bezels, crowns, hands, dial adornments, cases etc.
  • Specific fashion brand wristwatches that have surprising features.

Specificity frames my agenda.  Much to do before the clock strikes 6 o’clock again next August. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

“All in One”: Tomi Ungerer and His Time-Anchored Family

Modern day wristwatches are all about encasing time in a singular, defined.  They may display many dimensions: hours, seconds, elapsed time, moon phases, even emails and connections to the Internet.  At base though, they epitomize time all in one entity.

I was therefore intrigued by the title of the first United States career retrospective of Tomi Ungerer’s work: “All in One “at the Drawing Center in New York City.   The show runs through March 22, 2015. 

What does Ungerer who is now 85 and very well-known as a children’s book author and illustrator (Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear; The Three Robbers; and The Beast of Monsieur Racine among others) have to do with a blog dedicated in part to horology?

It all comes back to family ties, heritage, and intangible genius -- a common thread in so many clock and watch making family histories.

The following summary, a divergence from my normal commentary is a short tribute to the Ungerers and their lasting contributions.  

Tomi  Ungerer said in an interview with 032c, a European fashion and art magazine in Winter 2013/2014 that his artistry is in part attributable to his family, particularly his father:   “He was an artist and an astronomer, a humanist really. He built astronomical clocks—many public clocks in eastern France are Ungerer clocks. I have mechanical ghosts in my family.  It’s really in my blood.” 

Tomi Ungerer’s tribute to his father, Théodore and his family piqued my interest. My research unearthed some extraordinary time-centered family accomplishments.

In the 14th Century, the Ungerer family began producing mechanical tower clocks from Strasbourg, France. Later they opened a branch in Lorraine.

They produced and installed the astronomical clock in the Strasbourg Cathedral in 1354. Although replaced in 1574, this clock must have been a stunning sight. It was known as the “Three Kings Clock” and had several automata including a gilded rooster, a symbol of Christ’s passion. The rooster could flap its wings at noon, spread its feathers, open its beak, and stick out its tongue. This automaton still lives on in the Strasbourg Museum of Decorative Arts. Its enduring, fanciful antics could well be those of a character in one of Tomi’s children’s stories.

In 1842, the 1574 clock was replaced and the Ungerer name was re-associated with one manufactured by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgue with Albert and Theodore Ungerer. This clock was signed “UNGERER.”

Photo by Didier B (Sam67fr) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Later the Ungerer family incorporated electric power into their clock making. One of their works is the  Cathedral Clock in Messina, Sicily. The cathedral dates from Norman Times; however, the current animated clock in the bell-tower is the work of the Ungerer brothers,one of whom was Tomi's father. It dates from 1933 and is one of the largest animated clocks in the world.

Photo by Pinodario (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So the family tradition continues with Tomi in a slightly different way, albeit not without similarities to the creative legacy of his family.  In his own time, he has taken his talents and given his own expression to his artistic vision through his writings, illustrations, posters and graphics.  

Indeed, a family, All in One, to recognize and celebrate.   

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Petals Extraordinaire: Richard Mille's 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur

I think I’m becoming a floral tourbillon aficionado.  Last year in an April post, I showcased Chanel's Camellia Tourbillon  following Baselworld 2014.  Now along comes and goes SIHH — The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (January 19-25, 2015) in Geneva and I’m again enraptured by floral tourbillon beauty and extraordinary mechanical execution.
Sixteen “Maisons” exhibited this year celebrating SIHH’s 25th Anniversary. Among them was Richard Mille. 

Richard Mille SA, based in Les Breuleux, in the Jura Canton of Switzerland does not carry the “Depuis 1775” credentials of a Breguet.  It is a relative newcomer to the luxury watch industry, established by French businessman Richard Mille, in 1999. The brand is known for its complicated, high-tech engineering. Yes, it’s younger than SIHH by 16 years, but it’s a major player beyond its years. 

Richard Mille’s 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur is an amazing 21st Century technical achievement as well as paying homage to nature in motion on its dial face.  It reflects a new, integrated approach to complications combining artistry and craftsmanship for women.  As Rebecca Doulton said in her report on the watch for The Jewellery Editor, “Richard Mille watches takes the prize for having created the first flying tourbillon combined with a flower automaton in this century.”

Richard Mille’s 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur, Petals closed

So just what does the flower automaton do?  It incorporates a magnolia blossom with five pink-colored gold petals protecting a manual-winding flying tourbillon movement (a spinning balance wheel which twirls and whirls in 60 second rotations).  Every five minutes, the flower opens and closes its petals. The wearer can also open and close the petals on a whim by using a pusher located at 9 o’clock. 

But, the action doesn’t stop there.  What I love about this automaton is that not only does it perform a petal fluttering action, but also it reflects the act of pollination by having the entire flying tourbillon with its a ruby-set stamen move upward in the act of reaching for its prospective pollinator. And in doing so, the one-minute flying tourbillon rises as well by a few millimeters exposing its engineered components. What a sophisticated, modern-day, eco-automata tribute.  

Richard Mille’s 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur, Petals open

And who said in a gender-reverse moment that diamonds are not a stamen’s best friend? They are set on the bezel, flange, and hour dial appearing between 12 and 2 o’clock.

Richard Mille is seeding his garden with only 30 of these. J. G. Ballard’s Count Axel would definitely want one to grace his estate and give to his wife.

I hope that in the tradition of the French and Swiss  clock and watchmakers of the mid-18th Century to early 19th Century who created exquisite automata, Richard Mille gives us many more delightfully, clever pieces.