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Home > Business > Special

Wrist heavy, wallet light

Jai Arjun Singh | July 26, 2003

The person who first said that time is precious could hardly have reckoned how watchmakers (horologists, if you can pronounce it) would reinterpret his words.

Nowadays, the luxury watch market is throwing up more high-priced options than ever before and the days have gone when you could spoil your wrist and spare your wallet at the same time.

Let's face it. Nowadays, buying a watch isn't just about telling time -- for that, you might as well use your cellphone.

It's about diamond- studded dials, gold cases and fancy leather straps. So if you're up to spending heavily on timepieces, here's a look at some of what's on offer.

One timepiece that stands out from the crowd is the Atmos, a clock from Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre. The mechanism of these clocks is still a technological marvel although they were patented almost 75 years ago.

The Atmos works on a device that transforms the minutest changes in temperature into energy; a fluctuation of just a single degree suffices to keep the motor running for two days.

The technical principle behind this phenomenon is simple enough: a gaseous mixture, hermetically sealed inside a capsule attached to the clock's mainspring, expands and contracts as the surrounding temperature rises and falls.

As it does so, the capsule swells, its motion serving to keep the mainspring wound. With such a small amount of energy available (60 million Atmos clocks together would consume no more energy than a single 15-watt electric lightbulb -- but don't even try to calculate how much they would cost), the Atmos is designed to avoid the effects of air resistance.

The Atmos range starts at Rs 171,000 and goes up to almost Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million) per timepiece.

If you would like to be in the same league as John F Kennedy, Winston Churchill, General de Gaulle and Charlie Chaplin, go for the Atmos Regulateur, which is priced at Rs 14,61,500.

This clock, with dimensions of 200 x 155 x 225mm, is made of solid gold and its base is of ebony and maple wood. It is crafted and assembled by hand and comes in a travel case made of leather with gold-plated locks.

While we're on famous personalities, let's discuss a more contemporary one, Michael Schumacher. If you're an ardent watch collector as well as a motor-racing enthusiast, here's a great way to combine your interests: pick up the Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow Michael Schumacher limited edition.

This timepiece celebrates the racing champion's historic five F 1 world championship titles. The watch has an 18-carat red gold case and a matching 18-carat red gold bracelet with polished detailing.

The black dial has red gold-applied hour markers and 'Broad Arrow' hour and minute hands. 'Michael Schumacher' is written on the dial in gold lettering and protected with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.

The Speedmaster is priced at Rs 90,000 onwards and only 555 have been made. Omega also offers the De Ville Co-Axial 44mm, which operates on the Co-Axial Escapement technology.

What's that? Co-Axial Escapement is a movement design that reduces friction in the escapement (the organ that transmits energy in a watch mechanism).

The result, simply put: better timekeeping over longer periods as well as reduced servicing requirements. More to the point, what does the watch look like? The dial is in white enamel (limited edition) with 12 Arabic numerals painted in black or in opaline.

This is complemented by 18-carat red gold faceted and diamond-polished hour and minute hands, and a blue-steel seconds hand.

The brown alligator leather strap has a red gold foldover clasp with a pushbutton fastener. Little wonder the watch costs Rs 200,000 onwards.

Of course, different types of watches cater to different moods and occasions -- you wouldn't expect a chunky chronometer to serve the same function as a sleek rectangular-dialled watch, would you?

The former is a favoured design of LVMH's TAG Heuer and goes well with that brand's sporty image. The latter is favoured by Christian Dior (also under the LVMH umbrella), which tends to make watches that are more elegant -- even if they do have diamond-studded dials!

Ladies looking to splurge on wristwear could do a lot worse than pick up something from TAG Heuer's Alter Ego series.

Watches in this range include the Alter Ego Gold (Rs 132,300), made of solid 18-carat, with a dial that incorporates 12 diamond indexes.

If that doesn't provide you with a bright enough sparkle, there's always the Alter Ego Diamond (priced between Rs 119,700 and Rs 161,000), which has 30 pure diamonds set around the crystal.

For men once again, there's TAG Heuer's Link Calibre 36, priced at Rs 216,300. This timepiece, which enables time measurement to the nearest 1/10th of a second, is water-resistant to 200 metres and is fitted with a sapphire caseback.

The matt black or silvered dial is topped by glare-proofed crystal and is enhanced by sandblasted hour-markers.

If that information is a little too technical, you might prefer to know that this is the watch that golf maestro Tiger Woods sports in TAG Heuer ads.

Displaying it on your wrist will probably not improve your putting or driving skills, but it should do wonders for your social standing.

If you prefer the classier Dior look, there's the Riva Chrono Sparkling, priced at Rs 132,300. This is a gem of a watch, though you could also reasonably argue that it's more gem than watch -- it's set with 43 diamonds. Oh, there's also a silver-grey dial and a black rubber strap, but did you really need that information?

Additional reporting: Smita Tripathi

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