In The Spotlight
Having recently attended the NAWCC’s training class on identifying fakes and forgeries the idea of fake watches is front and center in my mind. As the attendees and I immersed ourselves in hundreds of images of real, fake and “Franken” watches (authentic parts from disparate watches), I started to think about the relativity of luxury.
About Time recently interviewed Delma Managing Director Andreas Leibundgut about the independent Swiss watchmaking company he oversees. With fairly new distribution in the United States, Delma has heightened its profile among enthusiasts and has introduced an impressive collection of new dive watches, notably the Blue Shark III.
In our wide-ranging interview, Leibundgut reviews Delma’s history as a Swiss watchmaker and describes the brand’s current collections and marketing philosophy.
IW: Can you give us a quick overview of Delma’s history through to today?
Andreas Leibundgut: Delma was founded in 1924 in Lengnau, Switzerland, by the Gilomen brothers as A & A Gilomen SA with the four brands: Delma, Gil, Midland, and Thuya. In 1966 the Gilomen’s were seeking a successor as there was none within the family. They found Ulrich Wüthrich, my grandfather, who acquired the company with a partner.
Following the takeover, they renamed the company after the Delma brand and started building on its sports collection. In 1969 Delma’s first divers’ watch, the Periscope, was launched and with it started our commitment to creating great performance watches that stand the test of time.
In 1996 Fred Leibundgut, my father, joined the company and started shifting the focus of Delma back to its core, the sports timepieces, that Delma had deviated from in the 1980s and early 1990s. Since then, we have successfully rebuilt our Diver and Racing collections with some outstanding performance timepieces. Delma has weathered the stormy past two years quite well and today we are looking forward to celebrating our upcoming centennial anniversary in 2024 in a way that’s worthy of that milestone.
What are some of the unique selling points that make Delma stand out?
As one of the few independent and family-owned Swiss watch manufacturers, established nearly a century ago, we offer exceptional products at very competitive prices for modern day adventurers.
In a competitive market, how do you position Delma with regard to other existing watch brands?
Delma develops timepieces for aspirational ladies and gentlemen with a connection to the water, whether that’s below the surface with our Diver collection, above the surface with our Racing collection or on the coast with our Dress and Elegance collections.
What price range does Delma cultivate and do you see this evolving in either direction in the future?
Delma’s core segment is between $1,000 and $4,000 with our most popular divers’ watches starting at around $1,100 - $1,200. Over the past few years, we have seen a strong increase in demand for our mechanical models and as such we will continue to focus on mechanical performance timepieces that push boundaries of strength and functionality.
What is the demographic/psychographic profile of a Delma customer?
We target modern day adventurers with a connection to the water who seek a timepiece that reflects their spirit and/or lifestyle and can be relied upon when it’s time to perform. Our commitment to craftsmanship and functional design attracts a more mature consumer profile, primarily people between 35 and 65 who value quality and have the willingness and means to spend on a Swiss Made timepiece.
What strategies will you employ to enhance Delma’s visibility in the North American market?
We plan to continue to engage in partnerships with digital and traditional media outlets with a focus on specialist outreach. In areas where we have a partner, we will also run co-op advertising and create out of home campaigns. Increasing our retail presence and awareness in North America is a key part of our 2022 strategy.
What are the biggest challenges for a brand like Delma to capture market share and expand?
The biggest challenge is gaining access to high quality point of sale locations. We see an ongoing trend of consolidation with larger players acquiring great independents to expand their network. These players tend to focus on brands from larger houses and have less interest in smaller independent brands like us. In turn the number of quality independent jewelers and watch retailers which we feel are the best physical platform for our products have been significantly reduced.
What is your plan to balance the direct-to-consumer sales with the traditional brick and mortar sales channels?
For Delma, direct-to-consumer and brick and mortar channels are complementary. Both are needed and both channels rely upon each other to do well. We have a well-running DTC sales channel and continue to expand our presence in targeted brick and mortar locations in Europe, North America and beyond.
What is the Delma Design process? Would you consider your designs to be proactive or reactive with regard to current trends?
The development of a new model starts with an idea or a new concept, which is then sketched out before we move on to
technical drawings, 3D modeling and prototyping. While we have a clear strategy and direction for the brand and the products we are developing, we do consider consumer demands and trends in the design process, particularly with finishes and color choices. Most important however is that we remain true to our identity, more so now than ever before.
I personally recall Delma’s attempt to enter the American market in the early 1990s. I even have one of your two-tone quartz watches (my very first Swiss watch) still in my collection. How has Delma changed as a company since then with regard to style, ethos and leadership?
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Delma deviated a bit from its core and produced a number of dress watches in gold, platinum, and other elaborate finishes. While they were well received at the time, we have regained focus on our foundation with invigorated commitment to sports and divers’ watches reflected in our new releases and promotional materials.
It’s hard for me to accurately judge the leadership and ethos of the early 1990s given my age, but I would argue that today, given the available tools at hand, we are much more directly involved in each market, and we are more brand focused.
In the past, distributors were met potentially twice a year, once in Basel and once during a personal visit. Now, there is a constant exchange between the people in the market and our team in
Switzerland. This allows us to be much closer to all extensions of the brand including retail partners, media outlets and clients.
Will Delma embrace the growing move towards environmental stewardship, conservation, or any other philanthropic causes?
With a strong focus on divers and sports watches, we have sincere interest in preserving the oceans and the wildlife that depends on them. Hence, Delma supports a variety of organizations and programs centered around ocean conservation.
Most recently, Delma, together with ocean conservationist and Delma ambassador Magnus Lundborg supported the Megalodon Project. A research endeavor to understand and protect Blue Sharks among other endangered animals that live in the waters surrounding the Azores archipelago.
In 2020, we also released a limited-edition timepiece in celebration of the 200 years since the discovery of Antarctica, which supported the Antarctic and Southern Ocean coalition in its mission to protect this great wilderness and the fascinating wildlife that relies on it. We intend to continue our philanthropic efforts and serve as stewards of global preservation.
Currently Delma has no fewer than fifteen different lines in the collection. That’s a lot for any brand and I wonder if there are any thoughts to consolidate and distill the collections to develop a tighter image of what a Delma watch represents?
Several years ago, the company took the decision to focus more strongly on its core, the diver, and sports watches. This has proven to be a successful path, but we are not yet where we want to be. As such you can expect that there will be new products coming in that segment with a certain clean up in other areas.
Are all collections available in North America?
Yes! We provide all our new retail partners with a recommendation for their collection selected from our complete collection based on bespoke factors and will do the same in North America as we continue to grow there.
We understand the retailer knows his clients best and are proud to be able to offer this flexibility and customizability to suit their unique demands, something that sets us as an independent, family-owned company apart from other brands and companies.
TAG Heuer continues to update its Aquaracer collection with a thinner, more refined version of its Aquaracer Professional 200.
The story of Waldan Watches is an inspiring one. I’ve followed the progress of the company since the early days of International Watch way back in 1990, and with the re-birth of the brand led by the next generation of Waldans, it’s time to revisit the story and introduce its latest collection.
Alpina has updated its aviation-themed Startimer collection with a new design featuring a new case, new bezel and new 41mm diameter size.
One of the first new mechanical models displaying the updated design, the Startimer Pilot Automatic, sports a blue, black or green dial, a steel or black PVD-coated case and a steel bracelet or a top-stitched calfskin leather strap.
Alpina notes that the new collection more closely echoes its own early pilot watch designs, with the newest size offering a compromise between the existing 44mm and 40mm versions, both of which will remain in the collection.
The new fluted bezel is especially notable for its retro appeal and was initially designed in the early part of the last century to give pilots wearing gloves a surer grip. Likewise, the watch’s crown is fluted (an “onion” profile) to enhance a gloved grip, and is screwed down to ensure water resistance to 100 meters.
In addition, Alpina has revised the Startimer’s hands, changing the earlier leaf shape to the newer cathedral design, filled with luminous material. A new fine tip enables the index markers to be read more precisely. The seconds hand has also been updated with the Alpina triangular counterweight.
Both the new hands point to smaller Arabic numerals and a railway style minutes track. The five-minute intervals are marked by a luminous marker next to the numeral on the track.
Finally, Alpina has moved the date window from its previous location at 3 o’clock to a more traditional pilot watch location at 6 o’clock.
Inside Alpina fits its Sellita-based FC-525 automatic movement.
Look for the new Alpina Startimer Automatic in three variations: with a black dial on a steel bracelet, a black dial on a black strap or a blue dial set with a brown calfskin strap.
(Note that Alpina also offers a quartz-powered Startimer Quartz Chronograph Big Date with the same design updates described above.)
Prices: $1,295 (SS bracelet), $1195 (leather strap).
Seiko Presage Style 60s Series takes its inspiration from the Seiko original “Crown Chronograph” introduced in 1964. While these modern versions combine the vintage feel of the 1964 version with modern updates, the new watches are not in-fact chronographs but create a timeless look that will be always be comfortably in-style. Outside components show the vintage Crown Chronograph’s boxed crystal, faceted indexes, and dauphine hands, while inside the case is the Seiko 4R35 automatic winding mechanical movement ticking away at 21,600 vph with a 41-hour power reserve. A total of seven variations exists, and all are crafted in stainless steel and 40.8mm in diameter. One version has the “heartbeat” cut-out dial highlighting the balance wheel and escapement ($525), the other has a full coverage dial ($575). Lumibrite is applied in all variations.
The new Shinola Monster GMT, this Detroit-based watchmaker’s first automatic GMT model, makes tracking time in multiple time zones simple and pleasing thanks to a particularly handsome blue-dial and blue bezel.
Starting with its ‘diver down’ flag at 12 o’clock, and over to the large calendar aperture at 3 o’clock, this nicely proportioned navy blue dial is a pleasure to eye. Shinola then enhances that visual pleasure by offering the option to swap the steel quick-release bracelet with a patterned blue strap made from recycled ocean bound plastic.
The watch is especially attractive to those with smaller wrists or collectors who prefer sporty watches with moderate case diameters. This new model at 40mm is smaller than other models in Shinola’s impressive Monster series, which measure 43mm and 45mm.
You’ll find the requisite 24-hour markers needed to track time in another timezone plainly positioned along a navy-blue ceramic bezel insert. The independently set blue and orange-tipped GMT hand, which rotates once a day, allows you to check that second timezone quickly.
Inside Shinola fits a Sellita automatic movement with a solid 56-hour power reserve. The movement, protected with 100 meters of water resistance, is visible through the watch’s fully open caseback.
5 new colors
• 44mm width, 51mm Lug to Lug, 15mm thick
• Ronda R150 Swiss Made automatic movement
• 28,800 VPH, 25 Jewels, with Date
• 316L Stainless Steel Case
• 1,000FT/330M Water resistant
• Screw down crown and Case back
• Luminous Ceramic Bezel - 120-click unidirectional
• Sapphire Crystal, AR coated - scratch resistant
• Blue Super-LumiNova hour markers and hands
• Unique sunray wave pattern dial, blue minute markers on dial and white minute markers on chapter ring.
• Unique USA DESIGN caseback
• Helium release valve 10 o’clock position
• 22mm bracelet, tension pin and collar, push button deployant clasp
• 3 Micro adjustments
Waldan Watches updates its Heritage Sportline Collection with colorful new dials, each nicely paired with leather straps that highlight contrasting and matching hues.
The new watches are the first additions to the U.S.-based watch
company’s collection in 2022. The collection is Waldan’s signature sporty series, constructed with double-stepped 40mm by 8.6mm 316L stainless steel case with a domed, anti-glare sapphire crystal and fifty meters of water resistance. (Readers might recall our review of one Waldan watch earlier last year, as well as our look into the company’s history in 2020.)
Waldan’s new Heritage Sportline models feature eye-catching dials executed in Olive Khaki, Royal Blue and Champagne. The oil-pressed, linear style dials feature SuperLuminova above their baton-styled applied markers and show the time with matching baton hands with luminous tips. A sunken sub-seconds register can be found at the 6 o’clock position.
Waldan’s interchangeable straps are made in Italy. While the straps attached to these new models are matched to the dial, Waldan presents the wearer with the option of purchasing additional straps to mix and match as desired. The extra straps are $30 and available from the Waldan website.
Waldan continues to power each watch in this series with an all-metal American-made Ameriquartz Caliber 70200 movement. Fine Timepiece Solutions, the Arizona-based manufacturer of the Ameriquartz movements, guarantees that its all-metal calibers are defect-free for a full five years. Price: $299.
Ecologically conscientious and fashion forward, 111 watches are as easy on the environment as they are on the wallet.
Birthed as an environmentally conscious watch brand, 111 watches embody an ethos of upcycling and sustainability without losing the qualities of style and service that we love in our watches. Using materials like non-petroleum castor oil plastics for bezels, recycled steel for cases, and straps made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate or “rPet” (think plastic water bottles) proves their case. On top of that, you’ll never need to replace the battery or add another button cell to the millions thrown away every year as every 111 is solar powered.
Styles range from kitsch colors to wire lug classics. Most are water resistant to 10atm and capped with a mineral crystal and conservation minded watch enthusiasts can expect to pay from $75-$125 for the majority of variations.
You can see and shop the entire collection here: https://www.111watches.com/ and discover more about 111 watches goals for sustainability and conservation here: http://www.fossilgroup.com/responsibility/
HLA watches 316L stainless-steel case are water resistant to 20 atm with a 120-click uni-directional bezel on top and screw-down crowns and case backs. A scratch-resistant K1 crystal protects the Superluminova-embellished hands and indices for easy reading all night long. Time is tracked via a Japanese quartz three-hand (plus date) movement ensuring accurate timekeeping for trivial or lifesaving situations.
HLA watches are now available in red, yellow, white, blue and black dials, with straps available in black, red, yellow, white, blue, and light gray. Quick release spring bars allow for straps that can be changed in seconds to create a new look that matches or contrasts the dial as you prefer. These HLA 42’s have a list price of $250 with a percentage of the proceeds of each sale donated to the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association to help fund the Junior Lifeguard program as well as buy gear used to help save lives. See the entire line here: www.hlawatch.com
For 2022 Alpina presents the Seastrong Diver 300 Heritage in a dark green dial paired with a color coordinated green rubber strap. Measuring 42 mm across and water-resistant to 300 meters, the two-piece stainless steel case mounts two screw-down crowns; one for time setting and winding, the other for rotating the inner rotating rehaute specifically for timing a dive – or any other event up to a one-hour limit. This design revisits the brand’s Super Compressor 10 Seastrong dive watch, first introduced in 1969.
While dive watches tended to have neon bright yellows and safety orange dials, Alpina dove head-first into the current trend for green colorways with this dark seaweed green dial and British racing green strap. Bold hands are luminous, as are the indices on the inner bezel.
As with external bezels, diver down times are shown with by Seastrong’s black rehaut, which can be adjusted using the upper crown positioned at the two o’clock mark. Unlike most external bezels, the Seatrong’s can be rotated in either direction before being locked in place by screwing down the extra crown.
The stainless steel case is polished and brushed on the sides with a solid steel case back engraved with Alpina’s namesake Alps as well as a trident as a nod to the nautical nature of the watch. Inside is the AL 520 automatic winding movement beating at 28,800 vph with 38 hours of power reserve. Price: $1,695.
Maurice Lacroix cases its sporty Aikon collection in colorful recycled ocean-bound plastic to create a bright series of Aikon #tide quartz time and date watches.
With assistance from Swiss recycler #tide, Maurice Lacroix cases each 40mm watch with up-cycled plastic combined with glass fiber. The composite material is twice as hard as standard plastic and is five times more shock and damage resistant, according to the brand. Maurice Lacroix creates the bezel, case, case back, crown, end-piece and buckle on the Aikon #tide using the composite material.
If the sun-drenched case and dial colors aren’t enough seaside style for you, Maurice Lacroix also references with sea on the watch’s dial with its ‘Vague du Jura’ motif, topped with a flat sapphire crystal. Several models sport diamond-set indexes
As an Aikon, the watch retains its Swiss watch technical profile with a screw-down crown and a screwed caseback that contribute to the watch’s water resistance of 100 meters.
Maurice Lacroix also equips the new series with its own Easy Strap Exchange system, allowing the wearer to swap the strap for an alternative without the need for tools. Maurice Lacroix will expand the Aikon #tide collection later in 2022 with a model featuring a recycled-material composite bracelet.
Price: $750 and $925 (with diamond-set indexes).
For seventeen summers Frederique Constant has released a new Vintage Rally limited edition series, which the Geneva-based watchmaker dedicates to collectors of classic Austin-Healey vintage automobiles. The annual debut rarely disappoints, and the 2021 releases are no exception.
TAG Heuer pays tribute to famed Brazilian racecar champion Ayrton Senna with TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition 2021, a new Formula 1 watch that features the racer’s yellow and black color scheme.
Now ready for takeoff on Kickstarter – the Elka Type X. On the dial minute markers abound without an hour marker to be found. Swiss Made with a La Joux Perret Automatic mechanical inside, the pre-sell commitment will cost just over $1,000 compared to the ostensible/eventual retail price of just under $1,700. At 41mm the watch will be comfortable on the wrist with either a leather or NATO style strap, while visibility is enhanced with Super-LumiNova-enhanced dial and hands under a boxed and domed AR-coated sapphire crystal.
Szanto has extended the Heritage Aviator series to include midnight blue and green dials in their retro pilot watch collection. From its inception Szanto has focused on modern interpretations of retro types and these core fundamentals show through in the Heritage Aviator series. Easy to read with an emphasis on the minutes, the new dials embrace the current trends of green and blue dial watches. Both new versions feature brushed stainless-steel cases water resistant to 10atm without a screw-down crown. Rather, Szanto made a great choice by using a push/pull onion style safety crown that will not allow the watch to start running unless the crown is fully pushed in to the case. Healthy doses of SuperLuminova on the hands and indices make this easy-to-read day or night and accuracy is ensured with a Japanese quartz movement under the new dials, which themselves are protected under a hardened mineral crystal. The 41mm case is held in place with a genuine leather strap and attractively priced at $225.
Early 21st century adventurers (that’s us, folks), have rocked specific brands for their excursions: a Nalgene water bottle, a G-shock watch and a Swiss Army knife. Victorinox is taking square aim at one of these three icons with their new FieldForce SPORT GMT, in a bold grab for wrist space in the casual/sport/urban adventurer/under $500 category.
Too few watch designers take advantage of the real estate found on the bezel. As a frame for the dial, the bezel is typically where designers place the watch’s numerals or markers, perhaps with some color, in pursuit of basic watch functionality.
Dive watches are like screwdrivers. Everyone needs one in their tool box, and you’re bound to buy one when you see a new feature your old one doesn’t have. The Monta Oceanking is like that since it adds comfortable details and unique innovations to an everyday tool watch priced less than $2,000.