May 2013 Archives

Dumbarton Oaks is a weird branch of Harvard.  Based in Georgetown, Washington DC, it supports research into Byzantine art, Pre-Columbian art and landscape design with a library, funding and space for scholars and a public museum and gardens.  We were there to study Byzantine art, so we didn't get to look at the pre-Columbian stuff and the rain kept us inside.  That said, they were preparing a small exhibit on Byzantine manuscript copies of the New Testament, and they let us take a look. (Note that all captions were transcribed from the texts in the display cases and are not my text)

Psalter and New Testament
Dumbarton Oaks MS3 Middle Byzantine, Constantinople(?). ca. 1084, on Vellum The miniature on display (folio 80v) depicts the Annunciation in the upper register and the seated Virgin below. Under the illumination, the text begins with the initial letter 'M', in which the Visitation is nestled. The particular aspect of this composition is the seated Virgin. She gestures to an open book that contains her canticle, seemingly providing guidance for the devotional use of the text. This representation is unique to the DO manuscript.
Washington, DC-Dumbarton Oaks-Psalter and New Testament0353.jpg
Canon Table
Gospel Book Dumbarton Oaks MS5 Middle Byzantine, Constantinople(?), late 11th C. The book contains the four gospels, written in dark brown ink as a single column of twenty lines. It is closely related to a group of more than a dozen manuscripts that were produced in Constantinople over a period of a few decades. The scribes of these books specialized in the production of illuminated luxury lectionaries and gospels for wealthy patrons. Ten lavishly decorated canon tables--concordances of the four gospels--are paired on the first five pages. Each pair is distinct, yet bears similar decorative motifs. One such motif is the presence of fleshy acanthus leaves with flame-like flowers. This book is open to canon table IV (folio 4r)
Washington, DC-Dumbarton Oaks-Canon Table0360.jpg

Start of Luke from a Gospel Lectionary
Dumbarton Oaks MS1
Middle Byzantine, Constantinople (?), Late 11th to 12th C
Vellum, tempera gilding
A Gospel Lectionary -- different from a Gospel book -- contains passages (lections) of the four Gospel arranged in the order that they are read during the Byzantine liturgial year.
This luxurious manuscript is thought to have been produced between the mid-eleventh and twelth centuries, mostly likely in a scriptorium in the capital city of Constantinople. The lectionary is peculiar because, while the first 42 folios were written in double columns, the following 107 were scribed in a cruciform shape. Few other lectionaries exist with the text written in a cruciform format.
The book is opened to the beginning of the readings from Luke (folios 64v and 65r)
Washington, DC-Dumbarton Oaks-0357.jpg
Lectionary Leaf
Middle Byzantine, Constantinople(?), early 11th C BZ.1979.31 The full page portrait of the evangelist Mark is a leaf from a lectionary. The book contained a dedication, indicating that it was presented by Empress Catherine Comnene to the Holy Trinity monastery of Chalki in March of 1063.
Washington, DC-Dumbarton Oaks-Leaf of a Lectionary Book0391.jpg

While there they also brought out a single leaf from an Armenian manuscript of the Alexander Romance, probably about 17th Century, that is in their collection. This illumination shows Alexander attaching a letter to his mother, Olympias, to a bird to send back to her. Though it is on paper, not parchment, and less costly, the iconography is pretty similar to the Alexander Romance in the John Rylands Library.
Washington, DC-Dumbarton Oaks-Leaf of Armenian Alexander Romance0396.jpg

(see the rest of the trip)


The New York Times has an article in today's Magazine on the Parisian jeweler Auclert, who I've mentioned before. An interesting detail from the article is that he tries quite carefully to not make permanent changes to the antique pieces he incorporates.

The man himself, Marc Auclert
Pink gold and oxidized silver ring. The granulated gold element is probably Etruscan, they don't bother to mentionGold bracelet. The central element is a bronze-age bull's head from China
Early 19th Century black-glass cameos in a bracelet-in-process


As recently as 2009, Christophe Claret(see previous) swore that he wasn't a watch brand, just a brilliant hired-gun watchmaker working for the top brands. That's all over with a new model released at this years Baselworld and a special edition for Only Watch 2013 (see previous years). Personally I think he should have stayed in the movement realm and let someone else handle the design, since his pieces are, almost universally, over-wrought hunks of post-modern excess, but mechanically peerless.

First from Claret is an addition to his X-TREM-1 line, the Pinball. He's retained the signature tourbillon and moving-sphere time indication, but reworked the case and movement to look like a pinball game (no reason was given), in a blue and orange color scheme. The case remains 40.8mmx56.8mm and 15mm thick, made of titanium with sapphire crystals and tubes. The movement is the FLY11 caliber, containing 419 parts, 64 jewels and maintains a 21,600 BPH for a power reserve of 50 hours. Winding and setting are done by independent flip-up levers on the back of the case.



Released as regular production at Baselworld was the Kantharos, a automatic chronograph with constant-force mechanism (sometimes called a remontoire) and a strangely-pointless chime, which strikes a single note each time the chronograph button is pushed, to start, stop or reset the chrono. The case is round, available in Titanium or gold and measures 45×15.8mm. The movement, Claret caliber MBA13, is bigger then the average watch of only a few years back, at 37.6×10.5 mm, and contains 75 jewels in it 558 components. MSRP starts at 98,000 CHF, making this the entry-level model of Claret's line.

To answer the obvious questions:

  • Yes. Part of the mainplate is made of synthetic sapphire, with synthetic rubies set into it for jewels. Claret pioneered this sapphire-as-plate in work he did for UN several years back
  • Yes. It does list every feature of the watch on the subdials

SJX has seen the beast in-person and has some live pics over at his blog, they're worth a look


Additional promotional material, crazy teaser movie

The DB25 Imperial Fountain series of 12 watches by DeBethune has been previously mentioned from their press release.  Here are some live pictures of the watch, including closeups of the hand-engraved dials, each of which has all 12 zodiac signs.

All 12 watches
closeup of PigCalibre DB2145 closeup

(Photos by Paul Boutros, source)

Some of the earliest coins that are coins, rather then just weighted chunks of metal, are the late 7th century Lydian staters.  These were struck in electrum, an alloy of gold and silver, which has a pale-yellow color.  Recently the Israel Museum in Jerusalem had an exhibit of a wide selection of these, with quite an impressive online catalog.  They also published a catalogue, White Gold: Revealing the World's Earliest Coins, bits available online.



More from Carnet

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Michelle Ong, who works under the brand name Carnet (see previous), apparently had an exhibit of her jewelry at the Asia House in London in 2011. I'm clearly a bit late to this, but the pieces were striking enough to warrent it. Particularly of note is her use of usually cut stones, like the briolette yellow diamond in the pendent and her ability to blend stones within a single field, for example the pomegranate seeds.

Pink Cloud pendent: Tourmaline, white diamond, blue sapphire, pink sapphire and amethyst set in platinum, white gold and titanium.Yellow teardrop pendent: Pale yellow diamonds and white diamonds set in gold and platinum
Precious Plume: White Diamonds and Coloured Precious Stones "Feather" Brooch in Platinum and Titanium.'Supernova' broach. Light Brown Diamond and White Diamond set in Rose Gold.
Pear Clip: White, fancy vivid and intense yellow and brown diamonds set in platinum and gold.Pomegranate broach: White, fancy yellow and brown diamonds set in platinum and yellow gold.



Last year HYT came out with the H1, the first watch with a fluid display.  Powered by a Chronode movement, it used a ultra-thin glass tube and two bellows to move a pair or non-reacting fluids so that the meniscuc between them indicated the hour, while a standard minute hand rotated around the dial.  For 2013 they have a completely different movement design, with smaller, angled bellows and some Renaud et Papi design elements the HNR indicator is a signature of theirs.  I don't really like it, but the animations on their website are fun at least.



  • Case
    • titanium with black DLC coating
    • 48.8mm
    • rubber-coated screw-down crown
    • 50m WR
    • sapphire crystals, AR coated
  • Movement
    • Made by APRP (Audemars Piguet/Renaud et Papi) to HYT's design
    • 21,600 BPH
    • titanium bridges, PVD coated
    • 8 day power reserve
    • thermometer at 9 o'clock



Breguet at Basel 2013

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After some pretty weak years (see Type XXII, double Tourbillon, creepy reaching-hand Reveil, etc) Breguet(previously mentioned) is back to their strengths with some 2013 Baselworld releases.

First up is the Ref 5277, a 4 day manually-wound watch in a 1996-standard size case of 38×8mm. Movement is a modified F.Piguet, case is white or rose gold and dial is hand-guilloche (same for nearly all the releases this year). Personally I prefer the rose-gold case and could do without the "96" on the RdM, but it's a strong start.


Next we have the Ref 7727 Chronometre. This was announced as a prototype last year but has finally made it to full production. What makes this watch unusual is the ultra-high-speed escapement 10Hz (normal watches run 3-4Hz) made entirely of silicon and the magnetic suspension. The tiny little hand at 2 o'clock makes 1 revolution every 2 seconds, making use of the high-speed escapement. The movement view through the display back is interesting, if not really attractive.


The third piece is the first new simple tourbillon Breguet has put out since the Messidor, and the first new tourbillon caliber since they acquired Lemania. It's classic Breguet design, with a slightly-off-center tourbillon and an RdM at about 9 o'clock. On the reverse they implemented a peripheral rotor to keep the automatic winding without obscuring the movement. That style has been tried on and off for the last 40 years, without much success, but we'll see what they do with it. The escapement is partially silicon, partially anti-magnetic steel. The engraving on the movement is not to my taste, but better then the usual Baroque work they do on their skeleton pieces.


Finally a new ladies watch, the Reine de Naples Day and Night. Named for a sister of Napoleon who supposedly received one of the first wristwatches as a gift, the Reine de Naples(see previous) is the high-end Breguet ladies line, always with the egg-shaped case. This one includes a Karrusel, a slow-moving balance platform, implemented to also be a 24-hour hand. The balance wheel acts as the sun and an engraved titanium disk as the moon on a lapis lazuli "sky" disk. Below are the usual hour and minute hands. The outer and inner bezel, as well as the crown, are set with diamonds, because apparently ladies watch == diamonds.


(photos by Paul Boutros, source)


Bulgari(previously mentioned) has released another watch based on their excellent Gerald Genta minute-repeater caliber, the Commedia dell'Arte. The Caliber BV 618 movement has been expanded to include automota on the dial, which do a little dance when the repeater chimes; however this necessitated reducing the number of striking hammers from 4 (Westminster chime) to 2 (regular repeater). In this case the moving characters are Brighella, Pulcinella and Arlecchino, in different configurations depending on the scene chosen for the watch. The dial and the moving parts are engraved 18kt gold and low temp enamel (baked at about 80C, not the 700C of Grand Feu enamel).


Bulgari "Commedia dell' Arte" from Allucinazione on Vimeo.

Finally some pictures of the artisans working on decorating the dial




Miniaturization has gotten to the point that there's now a complete Cesium based atomic clock module that's about the size of a matchbook (yes, 18th Century size reference). Based on that Hoptroff, a small British firm that makes high-tech electronic watches, has designed the first pocket watch with an internal Cesium reference. The Hoptroff 10 will be quite the beast, 82×25mm, and priced under, but nearing $100,000. Interestingly the dial, at least the sketch that they've released with the PR, is very much in the style of the great 17th and 18th C watchmakers, possibly harking back to the last time England was truly important in world horology.

For that you get all the following bits and pieces:


  • Symmetricom Chip Scale Atomic Clock
  • USB socket
  • 4 x pusher actuators
  • 9 x Soprod bimotors (permits hands to move in reverse, they're the little black V-shaped things with 4 copper coils)
  • 10 x Soprod monomotors (only moves hands clockwise, small black blobs with only 2 coils)
  • 6 x PIC microcontrollers
  • 60 x side-emitting LEDs
  • Flexipanel Bluetooth Low Energy radio
  • Sensirion humidity / temperature sensor
  • Measurement Specialties pressure sensor
  • Freescale magnetometer
  • Union Fortune Lithium Polymer battery pack sandwiched between circuit boards (not visible)


  1. Hours
  2. Minutes
  3. Seconds
  4. Annual wheel
  5. Magnetic compass
  6. Longitude - coarse scale
  7. Not shown due to patent applications
  8. Day of week
  9. Humidity
  10. Date
  11. Sidereal seconds
  12. Power remaining
  13. Tide forecast
  14. Tide height
  15. Temperature
  16. Atmospheric pressure
  17. Latitude - minutes
  18. Latitude - degrees
  19. Sidereal hours
  20. Sidereal minutes
  21. Longitude - minutes
  22. Longitude - degrees
  23. Microwave resonator status
  24. Charge status
  25. Atomic resonance lock indicator
  26. Clock status - atomic / ACXO / TCXO
  27. Caesium oven status
  28. Laser status


Another addition to the DeBethune DB25 line (see previous) is a series of 12 watches commemorating the zodiac fountain that used to be housed in the Yuanmin Tuan (Old Summer Palace outside Beijing). While only 7 of the original 12 animal heads are still known, we know enough of the massive Clepsydra (water clock) from texts to know that it was built in the 17th century by a partnership of Chinese craftsmen and Italian Jesuit missionaries for the Qianlong Emperor. Each of the watches in the series has the same movement, DB Cal. 2145, a special deaign with hands that are on revolving disks, opening the center of the dial for the zodiac heads, hand-carved by Michèle Rothen. Below see one watch in its entirety and then closeups of several more heads.





DeBethune(previously mentioned) has released another version of the DB25, this one with moonphase and tourbillon. The moon is the DB signature sphere, 1/2 palladium and 1/2 blued-steel, rotating against a starry sky. The movement is the DB 2619 caliber, 27 jewels, 36,000 bph (5hz), manually wound and a power-reserve of 4 days, and a 30-second tourbillon with silicon balance wheel, a DB specialty. Both the dial and movement are rose-gold, and the case is Platinum.

Dial SideMovement

Now some closeups of the details, first the moonphase and top of the dial

And now one of the movement, showing the unique construction of the 30-second tourbillon



Carnet jewelers was started in 1990 by Michelle Ong in Hong Kong.  About 15 years ago she started using rose-cut diamonds, an antique cutting style with many fewer facets, 24, then the current modern cuts.  This means that the cut only makes sense economically for stones that are very flat in the raw state. 

Palm Tree Broach with white and brown diamondsDancing Acorn Broach



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