Instructor Harris helping a student identify a watch. KEITH LEHMAN
It was only in October of last year (2015) that the NAWCC embarked on the new breakout course “Luxury or Lie?™.” Now, with 10 classes, 3 countries, and more than 100 students, it’s safe to say the course has been a success. Instructor Adam Harris’s passion and knowledge to educate the public on how to identify fake luxury wristwatches have greatly benefited his students and the NAWCC. Students leave the course with the confidence to accurately identify luxury watches, and the NAWCC enjoys exposure to new members and associations.
In our interview with Harris last year he stressed the importance of the course for anyone who buys or deals in luxury wristwatches. Students are often astounded at the speed Harris can spot the counterfeits that they bring in, especially because they bought these watches thinking they were legitimate!
The counterfeit watch market is a major world problem, and the NAWCC isn’t the only organization taking a bite out of it. The American Watch Association is a lobbying group focused on defending the intellectual property rights of member watch companies through strong trademark, copyright, and patent laws. Counterfeit watches are regularly seized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department, and the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH has a campaign to combat counterfeit watches.
Even with all of these measures, the fake watch market is rampant, and the watches they produce are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to spot. For this reason the NAWCC provides refresher courses to previously enrolled students so they can stay on top of the evolving market.
Chris Iliopoulos, president of SOTHIL Canada, shows latest models of U-BOAT wristwatches, from top to bottom, U-BOAT Chimera, U-BOAT Classico Titanium, and U-BOAT Classico.
This entry in today’s WatchBlog comes from NAWCC member John Grow of Canada. Here he shares his interview with SOTHILL founder Chris Iliopoulos in August 2016 at the Prestige Expo in Montreal, CAN.
One night altered Chris Iliopoulos’s entrepreneurial plans forever. He opened the doors of his jewelry story in Mykonos, GRE, that morning “to find it cleaned out of its inventory,” he told me.
Thieves made off with everything overnight. It was at that moment that he decided to rebuild his family’s jewelry business in Canada. Iliopoulos’s love of jewelry and watches began at an early age when he started working in his family’s jewelry business.
For several years he worked in luxury retail in Montreal, learning about the market. This knowledge prepared him for his next big move in 2011 when he decided to start SOTHIL in Canada, an exclusive distributor of luxury timepieces and jewelry.
His first distributor agreement in the Canadian marketplace occurred when Iliopoulos was introduced to Italo Fontana, founder of U-BOAT Watch Co. Initially, SOTHIL distributed Welder watches, U-BOAT’s secondary watch, through a network of retailers across Canada.
Iliopoulos’s successful sales resulted in Fontana agreeing to have him distribute his company’s high-end brand, the U-BOAT wristwatch. Each year has seen a new collection from U-BOAT offering consumers watches with unique designs, construction, and materials.
This year at Baselworld Italian watchmaker Fontana introduced his U-BOAT Classico GMT with an iridescent effect. Its effect is caused by a thin layer of anatolite under the case’s sapphire glass. Anatolite is a gemstone that changes color depending on the light, allowing the wristwatch’s dial to change from amber yellow to green.
Print ad for Bulova Spaceview Accutron courtesy of NAWCC Library and Research Center.
We take for granted the incredible technology that we have at our fingertips today. I recently took an NAWCC introduction class to pocket watches, and if solid-state technology is more advanced than the miniaturization of mechanical movements, then I’m truly living in a world where for most of us technology is, as science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke describes, “indistinguishable from magic.”
That’s why it’s refreshing to encounter artifacts that reveal gaps between two species of technology. The Bulova Accutron 214 wristwatch is one of these artifacts that demonstrates the bridge that spans the mechanical and quartz divide.
Released in 1960, Accutron’s uniqueness is the application of a battery-powered vibrating tuning fork, which eliminated the mainspring, escapement, winding mechanism, balance wheel, and hairspring found in a traditional mechanical watch. In 1957 Hamilton Watch Co. USA released the Pacer, which had a battery-powered mainspring but didn’t nearly reach the commercial success and world recognition of the Accutron.
1957 Hamilton Pacer on display at National Watch & Clock Museum. KEITH LEHMAN.
Print ad for Bulova Accutron courtesy of NAWCC Library and Research Center.
The Bulova Accutron, much like disco music in the 1970s, enjoyed a decade-long reign of popularity but then abruptly ended into obsolescence. More accurate and inexpensive quartz watches began to flood the market by the 1970s and in 1975 the production of tuning fork watches across the globe ceased.
Today, Accutron watches enjoy a healthy community of collectors and enthusiasts. Although millions of these watches were made, original functioning pieces become increasingly scarce because of the rarity of parts and the special knowledge that is required to fix them.
The MAD Horologist and
the "Holy Grail"
by Adam Harris 11/1/16
Yes, I must be going mad in my horology quest for that “Holy Grail.” If I had shown my latest purchase to my father, he would have asked incredulously, “But where is the watch?” My dear mother would then have exclaimed, “Forget the watch; where is the strap?”
Yet here I go and buy—not a watch, not a strap—but the mere buckle in my search for that “Holy Grail,” which is “Who and when was the first wristwatch made?”
The meager buckle throws another light on that subject. Because it is silver, how was it assayed with a London mark of 1908? That is MIGHTY early, and its width would appear to be a men’s wristwatch strap from 1908.
So we have an original sterling silver English gent’s buckle for an early wristwatch strap. The hallmark is clearly London and looks to be 1908, best guess, and is “..&Ss” maker????? Its hallmark partially obscures the maker’s mark and the date stamp. The 17 mm total width would take a 14 mm leather strap, so it’s a large gent’s size for this period!
Now, I must find a strap maker to turn the perfect silver buckle into something magnificent.
Federation of the Swiss
Watch Industry FH
by Therese Umerlik 10/31/16
Having worked several years in the news industry, I am always looking for reliable sources of information-or at least those I can hold accountable.
One such source is the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH.
This leading trade association has more than 500 members who represent more than 90 percent of all Swiss watch manufacturers.
The association keeps an eye on the exports, posting monthly updates based on information provided by the Federal Customs Administration. As of this post, exports have fallen for the 15th month. This information does not include “sales to the end consumer.”
In addition, the website links to the official websites of every brand as well as the contact information for the Swiss watch manufacturers. (http://www.fhs.swiss/eng/links.html)
Looking for an explanation of a unidirectional bezel? You can find that here with FAQ about batteries, jewels, and why this or that watch costs so much.
The association also offers a professional dictionary of all watch-related terms in four languages.
Digging a little deeper into the website, I found a list of trade publications in countries worldwide. It is fascinating to learn about the creative developments in wristwatches, including sunwatches.
With the Swiss watch industry in flux, this website is worth visiting to keep tabs on the industry’s future.