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Cornelis Drebbel: the magician of the 17th century
by admin


Duikboot Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel was born in 1572 in Alkmaar (NL), in a well-to-do family of land owners. Drebbel’s education was elementary, only later in life he learned Latin, but Hendrick Goltzius, famous for his engravings but also capable in chemistry, teached him a lot. Drebbel moved in with Goltzius in Haarlem to become his assistent and later he married a younger sister of Goltzius. As early as 1598 Drebbel got a patent for a pump and a clock with perpetual motion.
From 1605 till 1610 he stayed in the Court of King James I in London. Here Drebbel really blosomed as an inventor, in the years 1608 and 1609 he was busy perfecting a magic lantarn and a clavichord. His fame started to spread all over Europe and the next three years Drebbel lived in Bohemia.

Under the wings of ruler Rudolf II in Prague Drebbel focused mainly on his perpetuum mobile, alchemy and the production of gold alloys for the German mint. The period in Prague ended with a lot of turmoil and Drebbel was even thrown into prison.

After his release Drebbel fled to London where he would stay until his death in 1633. Here his main point of focus was building his submarine but, as illustrated by his visit to Middelburg in 1620, he was also interested in optical instruments. In 1621 Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) visited London and between January 23 and April 30 he had a number of brief meetings with Drebbel. Huygens says the following about these visits:
“I saw Drebbel also for a short time. In appearance he is a Dutch farmer, but his learned talk is reminiscent of the sages of Samos and Sicily. I wished to profit by your company for a longer time, great grey
beard, but the brevity of the time stood in my way, and against my will you are postponed for a another year.”
In the period from 1626 till 1629 Drebbel worked for the British Navy. mainly because of his submarine (the Navy saw opportunities for the vessel in war time) but also because of the water mines he produced. Unfortunately his period with the Navy ended because of conflicting thoughts about the value of his inventions.
Drebbel didn’t end his life as a rich man. The last four years of his life he was a brewer and owner of an inn below London Bridge. He used his invention of staying under water for a significant time to attract people to come to his inn and drink his beer.

An overview of the inventions by Cornelis Drebbel shows the following:
- Perpetuum mobile: a sort of air thermometer that worked with a certain volume of gas that variated with temperature and pressure. This is the most famous invention by Drebbel and it is interesting to see that the apparatus shows up in a whole lot of paintings from that period. In his autobiography from about 1630 Constantijn Huygens (who is of course the father of Christiaan Huygens) writes the following about Drebbel’s perpetuum mobile:
“The perpetuum mobile, which I know only from the drawing of it is so cleverly constructed, that no one, as far as I am aware, has been able to discover the hidden causes at work not even after it was broken. In a glass
spiral is a liquid, which reproduces the ebb and flow of the sea repeatedly (a thing I cannot believe), which certainly is brought about by self initiated motion back and forth and which enthrals experienced persons as much as inexperienced ones by its extraordinary continuance. I suppose it is something of the same sort as that, which now no longer astonishes us, where in a similar glass the enclosed liquid enables us to judge of the temperature of the day by the instability or mobility of the liquid. It is quite certain that the water is forced to rise to fill the empty space, when the air is pressed together by the surrounding cold and that the water is pressed down again and is chased away, as if by the ebbing of the tide, when the air expands by warmth.”
- Ovens and furnaces: Drebbel was very good at building these kind of contraptions. He even built a furnace of which the temperature could be held at the desired level.
- Automatic musical instruments
- Hydraulic inventions: as early as 1598 Drebbel obtained a patent for a construction that was equal to our system of water ducts and which could pump drinking water from different depths according to the need.
- Telescopes and microscopes: It is not for certain but a lot of people see Drebbel as the first person to build a microscope. Drebbel did a lot to spread the word all over Western and Southern Europe and even Galileo knew about his invention. Christiaan Huygens spoke with praise about Drebbel’s microscope. Drebbel was a brilliant glassblower.
- Submarine and oxygen: In 1620 Drebbel built a submarine for the English King. The vessel contained 24 people, 8 of which were rowers, navigated a couple of miles below the water level in the Thames, could change it’s depth, kept it’s course with a compass and could stay in the water for 24 hours without running out of oxygen. Drebbel had made a thorough study of oxygen and several papers claim that he produced oxygen by heating salpetre.
- Production of explosives
- Colouring of fabrics: Drebbel invented a method to colour fabrics with scarlet red by using a tin salt. This colour already existed but Drebbel’s red was much more powerful and intense.

Cornelis Drebbel and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Atmos clock

cb perpetuum mobile
Perpetuum mobile by Cornelis Drebbel, H.M. Hiesserle von Chodau, 1612

cd Atmos-Hermès_front-769x1024
cd Atmos-Hermès_profil-769x1024
Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos Hermes

Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos classic

With his invention of the perpetuum mobile Drebbel made the base principle for the Atmos clock manufactured by Jaeger-LeCoultre three centuries later. Through the years more of these objects were fabricated, Leonardo da Vinci also worked on a perpetuum mobile, but it took until the 20th century before the principle could be turned into a working clock.
In 1927 French engineer Jean-Leon Reutter developed the first Atmos clock, which is now called the Atmos 0. His clocks were driven by a “mercury in glass” expansion device which rotated a cylinder which wound the mainspring by ratchet. The mechanism operates on temperature change only. The clocks are slightly different to the later Atmos models in minor details of escapement. A temperature difference of one grade between 15 and 30 grades Celsius is enough to keep the clock running for 48 hours. To be able to turn these very small amounts of energy into movement the Atmos clock has completely different numbers than a regulair pendulum clock. The balance only makes two torsional oscillations per minute, 150 times slower than the pendulum of a standard clock. To put the amount of energy that an Atmos clock uses further into perspective the following comparison: 60 million Atmos clocks together don’t use more energy than a light bulb of 15 Watt.
In the history of the Atmos clock two things catch our attention. On June 1 1929 the Compagnie generale de radio (CGR) created a department for the production and sales of the Atmos, managed by Reutter. In september 1932 LeCoultre made a deal with CGR for the supply of movements, mid 1933 the so called 30″ A calibers were delivered. On July 27 1935 LeCoultre took over the whole production. Another interesting fact is that LeCoultre, after taking over in 1935, kept producing the Atmos I but at the same time was busy with the development of Atmos II. Biggest change was the replacement of the ammonia and lead ´bellows´ with an ethyl chloride canister.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos clock continues to be a fantastic phenomenon that is rightly given to all the important guests that visit Switzerland.

As a conclusion we can say that Cornelis Drebbel is one of the most gifted persons in Dutch history. Everyone of his inventions are brilliant in itself but it is hard to imagine that the whole list comes from one man. Luckily recently remnants of his house have been found in Alkmaar so that we still have a tangible piece of Cornelis Drebbel left.

Jaap Bakker

June 23rd



Jacques Brauer: art in scale 1/43
by admin

The Frenchman Jacques Brauer fabricates breathtaking models of cars in scale 1/43. By many he is seen as the very best in this line of work. The following pictures of his 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO show you why:

JB 1962 250 GTO carrosserie rood buizenframe
JB 1962 250 GTO carrosserie rood kaal
JB 1962 250 GTO carrosserie rood volledig chassis
JB 1962 250 GTO carrosserie rood volledig
JB 1962 250 GTO Ecurie Franchorchamps

Since young age Brauer has a passion for painting and cars.

JB waterverfschilderijen
Watercolour painting, 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, Jacques Brauer, 50cm x 65cm

JB olie op canvas Mercedes in Monaco 1937, 184cm x 148cm
Oil on canvas, Mercedes in Monaco 1937, Jacques Brauer, 184cm x 148cm

Brauer was educated at the School of Fine Arts in Reims and developed himself into an artist with racing cars as his favourite theme. He painted and made drawings but he felt limited in his creative options because he missed a third dimension to express himself. Realizing this, Brauer, at the age of 27, switched to building model cars.
As part of this article I have had a Q&A with Jacques Brauer about his background and his work. Next are the questions and answers by Brauer:

- What role did cars and drawing/painting play in your youth? Do you come from a creative family or were you an exception?
- I read that you missed a third dimension in drawing/painting. Did you immediately know that you wanted to build miniature cars or were there other options as well?
- Have you ever considered building watches like your friend Laurent Ferrier?
- Did you teach yourself what materials and techniques you need to build your cars or did you also get some sort of training?
- What is the most exceptional miniature car that you have ever built? Do you have a favourite model?
- What is your favourite 1/1 car?
- What kind of work would you be doing if you weren’t building model cars?

- I have been concern by race cars as long as can remember… very young boy, I receive a special price
for race cars drawings when 5 years old…
I am from a musician family ( mother) and industry( father). Nothing especially creativ but truly inspired
with life and things aound.

-I have started with fine art painting in the early 70′s, essentially race cars and old sports cars subject.
I decide to explore “little cars” at the end of the 70′s, starting with a Ferrari GTO, based on a kit ( metal)
but the model as proposed was definitely not enought for me, then, I start to open doors and other
parts and have to study an engine and engine bay details.
From the beginning I have been facinated by “little cars” the following story is just “how to do it as close
as possible to the real thing” including materials, like wood, leather, textile and so on.
-I have study technical approach and tools and materials myself… no school… .
My favorite car… a lot, but the Aston DB2/4 mk3 is probably the one ( vantage spec.)

- I never expect doing another job, and will do it as long as possible! ( all my life time).

Hope the reply is right for you!

Kind regards,


PS watch making is a specific job who need to learn the right skill, too difficult for me!

JB Ferrari 330 GT 2 + 2
1967 Ferrari 330 GTC

A good illustration of the way Brauer works is the production process of a wooden Nardi steering wheel for his models.

JB 62 GTO straat los stuurwiel en koperen stuurinrichting
JB houten stuur Nardi
Wooden Nardi steering wheel

To create a steering wheel, he needs a piece of pear wood and a self-made tool (an old file that he has sharpened to the utmost). He then uses a special glue which is applied by infiltration in order to saturate the wooden fibres so as to avoid the piece of wood breaking while he is working with it. He cuts out a small circle with his file and then applies himself to ensuring that it is perfectly round using sandpaper. For the inside of the steering wheel, he cuts out a piece of nickel silver which he then sticks to the centre of the wooden circle.

JB onderdelen houten stuur
Parts for a wooden steering wheel

For logos and the little letters composing the brand names, he uses photo-cutouts which he systematically re-polishes using a felt buffing wheel. This requires very careful, thorough work as he is dealing with elements that are no more than around 0.15mm thick.
The artist has successfully reproduced all the elements of the real car to a scale of 1:43. The bonnet, doors and boot open, and the engine is a perfect reproduction in every respect. Each mechanical piece is a true replica complete with air filters, spark plugs, and oil filter cartridges. The structure is made of brass wires assembled with a tin soldering iron. There is a technical link with watchmaking with regard to the production of functional suspension elements, the steering gear (steering is driven from the wheel). The door locks involve the same approach to extreme miniaturisation!
Leather is used throughout the interior, in the original colours. The dashboard features all the dials and the steering wheel features a varnished wooden rim. Every single shape and proportion is scrupulously respected.

“My principal concern can be summed up as follows: respect for spirit and form.”

One of the interesting things of Brauer’s models is that certain aspects of the miniature have clear, technical links to making watches.

JB onderdelen California Spyder

These links are clearly found in for instance the production of functional parts of the suspension, the steering system (the steering wheel turns the front wheels) and the complex construction of the door locks.

JB deurslot
Parts of a door lock

jb Laurent Ferrier Classic
Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic (tourbillon)

Watch manufacturer Laurent Ferrier and Jacques Brauer met at the beginning of the 1980s at a time when both were involved in the world of motor racing. Laurent has unremittingly admired and kept up with Jacques Brauer’s work ever since. For Laurent, the work of a sculptor-miniaturist is closely akin to his own, with regard to design as well as the process of creating a given piece. They share the same approach to the new project, for which Jacques Brauer creates the prototypes – sometimes in wax – in exactly the same way as Laurent Ferrier does when making his models. “That is in fact the aspect that is most like my profession. It is a kind of horology, more artistic but in many way similar. It’s another form of gentle madness.” Laurent Ferrier Laurent Ferrier describes J. Brauer’s work as exceptional.

He is fortunate to be in direct contact with collectors who ask him for models of dream cars. He quotes them: “I want the very best you can do.” It is the same concern that leads collectors to gravitate towards Laurent Ferrier pieces. Like Jacques Brauer, Laurent Ferrier tailors his work to the needs of his client, notably through the creation of one-of-a-kind models.

His work is completely tailored to his clients’ needs. Certain collectors want replicas of their vintage cars. He also says with a degree of amusement that he sometimes has to repair these models because some of his collectors play with them! The lead time for making a piece varies between 8 and 12 months. He estimates that his work involves between 300 and 700 hours per model depending on the level of detail required. It takes him hundreds of hours of work just to develop the first prototypes. Every stage of the production process is photographed in order to share the project’s progress with his client as well as to justify certain elements, which, once the piece is finished, will no longer be visible from the outside. In Laurent Ferrier’s opinion, it takes passion and talent to achieve results like these.

JB tekening model
Notes and drawings prototype

Because pictures say more than a 1000 words some more to show the pieces of art that genius Jacques Brauer produces:

JB 54 375 MM
JB 62 GTO race straat
JB 70 365 GT 2 + 2
JB beginfase 62 GTO
JB body California Spyder kaal
JB California Spyder met hardtop
JB diverse modellen
JB in atelier
JB interieur California Spyder
JB onderdelen 64 Ferrari 250 GTO
JB 62 GTO straat carrosserie chassis kaal

The ‘Red Baron’ and his Fokker Dr.I: inspiration for Zenith
by admin

When Manfred von Richthofen, nick-named the ‘Red Baron’, was shot down and killed on April 21 1918 near Amiens he officially had 80 victories in air combat

In this portrait the Red Baron is wearing the ‘Pour le Merite’, the ‘Blue Max’, the highest Pruisian military decoration

Although the Red Baron gained his victories in several airplanes it is the Fokker Dr.I that is most associated with this air hero.

Fokker Dr.I Red Baron

Zenith has been involved in flying for a long time. At the beginning of the 20th century they manufactured the so-called ‘montres d’aeronef’ or ‘onboard watches’. In the picture below is an example from 1938.

1938 Zenith_Historical_Montre-d-Aeronef-Type-20-560

At Baselworld 2013 Zenith introduced the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT Red Baron, in a limited edition of 500 pieces.


But, before we turn to the Zenith, let’s take a closer look at who Manfred von Richthofen was and the role of Anthony Fokker in this whole story.

Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was born in Kleinburg on May 2 1892 in a aristocratic Pruisian family. His military career started in the cavalery but soon his regiment had no real use anymore and only tasks far behind the front remained. Von Richthofen became disappointed and bored because he wanted to see action. He applied for ‘Die Fliegertruppen des Deutschen Kaiserreiches’ (later called the ‘Luftstreitkrafte’) and in his application among other things he wrote: “I have not gone to war in order to collect cheese and eggs, but for another purpose.” Despite this rather unmilitary approach Von Richthofen was offered a job, much to his surprise, and he started in the airforce at the end of May 1915.

Red Baron 1916 in an Albatros
The Red Baron in 1916 in an Albatros

As it often is with people who turn out to be a genius, they are slow starters and Von Richthofen’s career as a pilot was no different from this. He even seemed to be a below average pilot: he struggled with the control over his plane and he even crashed on his first solo flight. But the following quote by Von Richthofen showed that he had what it takes: “I had been told the name of the place to which we were to fly and I was to direct the pilot. At first we flew straight ahead, then the pilot turned to the right, then left. I had lost all sense of direction over our own aerodrome!…I didn’t care a bit where I was, and when the pilot thought it was time to go down, I was disappointed. Already I was counting down the hours to the time we could start again…”

In August 1916 Oswald Boelcke selected Von Richthofen as one of the first pilots for a new fighter unit named Jagdstaffel 2 or Jasta 2. The Red Baron won his first air combat with Jasta 2 on September 17 1916 over Cambrai in France. Although the Red Baron flew several types of aircraft, among them several models of the Albatros and the Halberstadt D.II, the airplane he is most associated with is the Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker.

Anthony Fokker in 1912

Anton Herman Gerard ´Anthony´Fokker was born on April 6 1890 in Kediri in the former Dutch-Indies. His father had a coffee plantation but when Anthony was 4 years old the family moved to Haarlem in the Netherlands to give the children, Toos and Anthony, a Dutch upbringing. Anthony was not what you would call a driven student, he didn’t finish his high school, but he had always been very interested in technique and enjoyed building things like model trains, steam wagons and model airplane.

Fokker’s first serious interest in flying was feeded by the show flights by Wilbur Wright in the summer and autumn 1908 in France. In 1910 his father sent the then 20 year old Fokker to Germany to be trained as a car mechanic at the Bingen Technical School but Fokker made a quick switch to the air division. In the same year he built his first airplane called ‘de Spin’ (the spider). Fokker got his flying license in the second Spin and with the third version he became world famous in Holland by flying around the clocktower of the Sint-Bavokerk in Haarlem on August 31 1911.

Anthony Fokker in the first version of ‘de Spin’

In 1912 Fokker moved to Johannisthal near Berlin where he started his first company, Fokker Aeroplanbau. Later he went to Schwerin where the factory got a new name: Fokker Flugzeugwerke GmbH (later called: Fokker Werke GmbH). After the war the Treaty of Versailles banned Germany to produce airplanes or their engines. This made Fokker come back to Holland in 1919 to start a new factory, the Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek. This was the forerunner of the Fokker Aircraft Company. Despite the restrictions of the Treaty Fokker succeeded in smuggling 220 airplanes, 400 engines and many spare parts from Germany to Holland; according to Fokker he had paid 20.000 Dutch Guilders in bribes.Soon the focus shifted from military to civil aircraft, like for instance the very successful Fokker F.VII trimotor. Sadly Fokker went bankrupt on January 22 1996, several divisions were taken over by Stork.

Zenith & Fokker Red Baron

The Zenith Aeronef Red Baron has an in-house built, non-El Primero (only in chronographs) movement, the Elite class caliber 693 beating at 28,800 bph (4Hz) and with a power reserve of 50 hours.

Zenith kaliber 693

The steel case of the Red Baron , diameter 48mm, has a black DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating and the GMT indicators, both on the dial and the central GMT hand, are bright red just like the famous Fokker Dr.I Triplane which the Red Baron flew. On the solid steel case back is a medaillon with an image of the Red Baron’s Triplane and the text: ‘Montre d’Aeronef Type 20-Zenith Flying Instruments’. Production of the Zenith Red Baron is limited to 500 pieces.


Jaap Bakker

February 2nd

Non-Rolex watches


Ernest Hemingway: a true Rolex man
by admin


The quintessential Renaissance man, Ernest Hemingway was a Nobel-prize-winning author, war reporter, bullfighter and a sophisticated cocktail connoisseur. He lived (and drank) all over the world, but was oft known for hanging out in bars in Key West and Havana. We’re toasting Hemingway this month, in honor of his birthday (July 21), with a few tidbits and tipples.

The Cocktails:
The original Hemingway Daiquiri was a frozen mixture of white rum, lime and grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur and was reminiscent of a lime-colored Slurpee. Served at the infamous El Floridita in Cuba, it is said Hemingway once consumed more than a dozen in an evening. He remarked that one “felt as you drank them, the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powder snow.” Ordered mostly by Hemingway as a double, the drink also became known as the Papa Dobles. Nowadays, the cocktail is often served straight up, no blender required. Hemingway was also a fan of absinthe and is credited with mixing a potent blend of absinthe and Champagne dubbed Death in the Afternoon after his 1932 book of the same name.

His Drinking Buddies:
In Paris during the “Golden Age” of the 1920s, Hemingway drank with a bevy of famous artists and writers including Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and W. B. Yeats. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris reenacts the conversations and carousing with admirable detail, as does our top tome of the month, The Paris Wife, a fictional account of Hemingway’s first marriage during those party years.

Hemingway Daiquiri

2 ounces white rum
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Death in the Afternoon

1 1/2 ounces absinthe
4 ounces Brut Champagne

Pour absinthe into a champagne flute and top with chilled Brut Champagne until it clouds over.

The above text reflects in a nutshell the type of man Ernest Hemingway was and what kind of life he lived. However, this is only one side of the story. Hemingway suffered from bipolar disorder and had severe depressions. In 1960 Hemingway was treated with ECT (‘Electro Convulsive Therapy’, “Electroshock”) in the Mayo Clinic, about which he said: “What these shock doctors don’t know is about writers…and what they do to them…What is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business? It was a brilliant cure but we lost the patient.” Eventually, in Idaho in 1961, he ended his life by shooting himself in the head; the way in which he committed this act is completely in line with Hemingway’s character.

Hemingway Memorial in Trail Creek, north of Sun Valley, Idaho

Hemingway Memorial in Trail Creek, north of Sun Valley, Idaho

Ernest Miller Hemingway was the second child and first son of Clarence and Grace Hemingway

Ernest Miller Hemingway was the second child and first son of Clarence and Grace Hemingway

The Hemingway family in 1905, left to right: Marcelline, Sunny, Clarence, Grace, Ursula and Ernest

The Hemingway family in 1905, left to right: Marcelline, Sunny, Clarence, Grace, Ursula and Ernest

ehe:Rolls Royce

This 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom II Short Coupled Saloon used to belong to Ernest Hemingway. With this car he traversed the USA while writing and publishing ‘A Farewell to Arms’, ‘The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories’, and ‘Death in the Afternoon’. The car is provided with compartments for booze, golf and hunting stores.

Another car owned by Hemingway is the Lancia B10 with which he travelled through Europe in 1954.

ehe:Lancia B10 1954


Ernest Hemingway, who famously wrote standing (“Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.”), approaches his craft with equal parts poeticism and pragmatism:

” When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through “.


Hemingway's favourite shoes were loafers, he had racks full of them

Hemingway’s favourite shoes were loafers, he had racks full of them

Ernest_Hemingway recuperating from leg wounds in Milan 1918

Ernest Hemingway recuperating from leg wounds in Milan 1918

In the Winter of 1917 the Red Cross started a campaign for the recruitment of American volunteers who would drive ambulances at the Italian front. Hemingway applied for the job, because the American army refused to take him into service due to a bad eye. On 8 July 1918, only a few weeks after his arrival, he suffered leg injuries inflicted by shell-splinters while distributing chocolate and cigarettes among Italian soldiers along the river Piave. According to Ted Brumback, another ambulance driver, who wrote Hemingway’s father a letter, more than 200 splinters pierced Hemingway’s legs, but he managed nevertheless to get another wounded soldier to the first-aid post. On his way his legs were hit by machine gun bullets on top. Later, for this act of self-sacrifice he was rewarded the Italian Heroism Silver Medal. His right knee was injured so badly that he feared amputation. Recovering from his injuries in a Milan hospital, Hemingway fell in love with Agnes von Kurowsky, a well-educated American nurse who was eight years his senior. Hemingway would incorporate this romance in his novel ‘A Farewell to Arms’.

Ernest Hemingway wrote 'For whom the bell tolls', about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, in 1939 in Cuba, Key West and Sun Valley, Idaho

Ernest Hemingway wrote ‘For whom the bell tolls’, about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, in 1939 in Cuba, Key West and Sun Valley, Idaho

The book tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American explosive expert, who as member of the International Brigades is added to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains during the Spanish Civil War. Jointly they have to blow up a bridge in order to make an attack on Segovia a success. During this mission Jordan falls in love with Maria, a girl who had lost her parents in the war.
The book is partially autobiographic, Hemingway was in Spain during the civil war. The main character may be based on Robert Hale Merriman, an American who was killed in Spain in 1938. Merriman was an acquaintance of Hemingway’s.


In WO II Hemingway was a reporter in war areas in Europe and the below text is about his experiences in Belgium in those days:

On September 11th, 1944, Colonel Charles Trueman Buck Lanham, with a smouldering Lucky Strike permanently dangling from the left corner of his mouth, was looking through a splendid pair of captured German Zeiss field-glasses toward the river that formed the German border less than a hundred yards away.

“ Damn!”

“ What’s the problem, Buck?” asked Hemingway, who was playing a hand of gin rummy with Pelkey.

“ They’ve blown the damned the bridge. That was obviously the explosion we heard a minute ago.”

“ Who the hell are “they”, Buck?”

“ The damned SS. We heard yesterday that a few remnants of the 2nd SS Division might have been left behind to the give the regular German army a chance to get home to father.”

“ A joker don’t count, Archie. What can we do, Buck?”

“ Repair the bridge, I guess.”

Lanham then spotted one of his aides and yelled.

“ Captain!”

“ Sir?”

“ Get a bunch of engineers up here, and fast.”

“ Yes sir, but they’re way back…”

“ I didn’t ask where they were, captain, just get them up here.”

“ Yes, sir!”

The Captain roared off in his Jeep as Hemingway placed his cards on top of the low wall he and Pelkey were using as a card table.

“ Four, five, and six of clubs, oh, and eight, nine, ten, and jack of hearts. My hand I think, Archie? That’s a hundred dollars you owe me.”

“ Shit.”

Hemingway, Pelkey, and their little band, plus Lanham and a forward reconnaissance unit of his 22nd, were in the Belgian town of Houffalize – to the south of Liege, and just north of Bastogne – deep in the valley of the River Ourthe, beneath steep grey granite cliffs, which was, in the words of British historian Charles Whiting, “…the centre of a small road network and a bottle-neck. In three months time it was to be the centre of the great link up between the 1st and 3rd US Armies during the Battle of the Bulge and then it would be wrecked completely.”

For Lanham the bridge across the Ourthe, in the middle of the town, was essential for the eastward progress of the 22nd. But that didn’t bother the inhabitants of the town, who – even though many of their houses had been destroyed as the bridge went up – still heaped gifts of cakes,
eggs, and bottles of wine, upon Hemingway and the rest of the “liberators.”

“ Say, Ernie, if this were Oak Park, and your dear Mother was being liberated, would she offer cakes and wine?” asked Lanham.

“ I don’t ever remember seeing cakes in the house, sure as hell don’t recall eating any. And as for wine Buck, no chance, the Devil’s liqueur. No, any liberating army outside the Bitch’s house would be told in no uncertain terms to please stay off the grass and to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb her afternoon nap. But then, who’d want to liberate Oak Park?”

After frying and devouring the eggs, eating the cakes, and drinking the wine, Lanham got the now assembled bunch of 22nd Infantry Engineers (the captain had found them brewing coffee less than three miles down the road) to gather together as many villagers as they could to start rebuilding the bridge with anything they could lay their hands on.

“ Wish I could get my hands on a Bailey Bridge, Ernie, but the damned Limeys keep them all to themselves, and the few the US have are in Holland.”

“ To hell with the Limeys, Buck.”

“ Yeh, but I still wish I had one of their damned bridges.”

Donald Bailey (later, Sir Donald) a pretty low grade British civil servant – and something of a Meccano fanatic as a boy – invented his so called Bailey Bridge in 1941, and eventually convinced the British military to take up his idea; and like all simple ideas it proved itself to be indispensable.

In essence a Bailey Bridge is a prefabricated metal road bridge that floats on pontoons, with the roadway element made-up of heavy duty timber planks. It can be assembled relatively easily, taking
around six hours to span a river the size of the Thames. The first was erected (under heavy enemy fire) in May 1944, at the battle of Monte Casino in Italy. Hundreds were used in the hours, days, and weeks after D-Day, enabling the Allied armies – especially the heavy armour and supply trucks – to maintain their necessary momentum whenever they came across a destroyed bridge. The Americans soon saw the usefulness of the invention and built hundreds under licence for their own use. As Colonel Lanham mentioned, by September of 1944 virtually all of the Bailey Bridges were being used in Holland as the Allied armoured divisions dashed toward Arnhem to relieve the besieged units of the British Airborne. To get an idea of how a Bailey Bridge was constructed, watch Sir Richard Attenborough’s superb 1977 film, A Bridge Too Far, and enjoy Elliott Gould’s wonderful portrayal of an unconventional, Colonel Lanham style, cigar-chewing American officer kicking ass. Of course Lanham had no chance of getting his hands on a Bailey Bridge, having to make do and mend. Bailey Bridges are still manufactured today.

Hemingway chose not to help re-build the bridge, but instead sat on a fence watching, drinking, and shouting orders on bridge-building techniques. Many of the town’s inhabitants, who genuinely thought Hemingway was in charge, immediately started referring to him as the General. Hemingway told them he was not a general, only a captain, and after being quizzed as to why he held such a lowly rank replied in deliberately broken French:

“Can’t read nor write is why. Never quite got around to it, but hell that don’t hold anyone back in the good old US Army.”

Ernest Hemingway was, as ever, enjoying himself hugely, and Lanham never told the Houffalizeans who was really in charge; why confuse them when they were building such an excellent bridge?

In fact it took less than an hour for the good people of Houffalize to rejoin the two halves of the bridge, and by early evening Lanham’s vehicles were crossing over in numbers – including tanks – to the German side and the inevitable confrontation.

A little further down river – where the Ourthe becomes the Sure – at the village of Stolzemburg, on the Luxembourg side of the river, which forms the border between Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, a young American Staff Sergeant, Warner H. Holzinger of the US 5th Armoured Division, took a patrol across the river – the bridge there had also been blown by the retreating Germans – and, avoiding the road, scaled the cliffs on the German side. They were the first allied soldiers to enter Germany in wartime since Napoleon’s invasion 150 years before. When they reached a small plateau fifty feet from the top of the cliffs they came across several empty camouflaged bunkers which were being used as a chicken coops by a farmer.

“ Well, if this is the famous West Wall, I don’t think much to it,” Holzinger said to a corporal at his side.

But when his patrol finally reached the cliff top and looked downward toward the heart of Germany they saw hundreds of pillboxes and bunkers of every shape and size. They hit the dirt expecting a barrage of fire, but nothing happened, not a single shot came their way. With night coming on Holzinger didn’t feel like hanging around and ordered his patrol back down the cliff and across the river. He had no desire to see if those other bunkers were empty or not.

When the sergeants report reached General Courtney Hodges, Commander of the US 1st Army, the General issued the following statement:

“ At 1805 hrs on 11th September, a patrol led by Sgt Warner H. Holzinger crossed into Germany near the village of Stolzemburg, a few miles north-east of Vianden, Luxembourg.”

As Warner and his patrol celebrated with a few drinks, and Colonel Clarence Park, Patton’s Inspector General, began to assemble and co-ordinate the paperwork for the interrogation of Ernest Hemingway, the novelist himself went to bed early, after a good dinner, and dreamed of
hunting deer in the forests around Lake Michigan, countryside that was not unlike that around Houffalize.

The morning of Tuesday the 12th September 1944 was clear and sunny, and as Hemingway awoke slowly from a dream where he was hunting deer with his son Patrick in Idaho, and had this most wonderful young stag clear in his sights, and was about to squeeze the trigger and put a .45 shell
cleanly into the back of the animal’s brain, the deer turned his head and looked at Hemingway, and his dark doleful eyes and trusting soft eared head turned into the anguished depressed face of Hemingway’s dead father. Ernest squeezed the trigger anyway.

Hemingway was awake now and looking up from his bed at his ageing face in the cracked oval mirror that hung above the large pine dressing table that stood against the wall in front of the bed of the first floor bedroom of the hunting lodge he, Pelkey, and the others were sharing. Hemingway then looked at his watch, six am, and not a sound except some distant snoring, and the sound of a million animals and birds stretching their wings and limbs amongst the trees and undergrowth
of this part of the dense Ardennes Forest. Funny, Hemingway thought, how, in the midst of war, nature continued to do what nature does, which is preen and sing, and scratch, and burrow, and eat, and fornicate and kill, and be killed. Not so different really to what the rest of the world was doing on this beautiful September morning.

Ernest Hemingway wanted to get up but decided against it for the minute and luxuriated a little longer in the warmth and softness of the feather mattress and fell asleep again, and dreamed, and dreamed of seeing James Joyce…

Ernest Hemingway with a Rolex, probably a Bubbleback from the 1940s

Ernest Hemingway with a Rolex, probably a Bubbleback from the 1940s

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The picture of the Bubbleback was made in the Ralph Lauren dressing room on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Florida.

Ernest Hemingway in the cabin of his boat El Pilar. Around his wrist probably an 18c golden, leather band Rolex Oyster from the 1950s

Ernest Hemingway in the cabin of his boat El Pilar. Around his wrist probably an 18c golden, leather band Rolex Oyster from the 1950s

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Seeking help about the Rolex watches owned by Hemingway at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston unfortunately gave no new information about these specific watches. They didn’t find any Rolex watch in their Ernest Hemingway Archieve. The only three watches listed by them are the following:

1. Jewelry. Pocket Watch. Gold, metal, glass. Gold pocket watch with second hand dial. Glass face plate is broken. MO 2002.29
2.Jewelry. Pocket Watch. Silver. Silver pocket watch with viello on reverse and “Willoughby A. Hemingway, Dec. 25, 02″ inscribed on interior backing. Face plate is missing. MO 2002.29.3
3. Jewelry. Watch. Metal, plastic. 1 ½ in. Swiss wrist watch with plastic cover. Wrist strap is missing. MO 2002.23.2

Another interesting watch owned by Hemingway, also not a Rolex, is the 1906 Hamilton pocket watch that actress Ava Gardner gave Hemingway for his 55th birthday in 1954. The following article tells the whole story:
Hemingway “Birthday” Pocket Watch

Ernest Hemingway in Cabo Blanco in May 1956

Ernest Hemingway in Cabo Blanco (Peru) in May 1956, fishing for black marlin


In Cuba in 1951 Hemingway wrote one of his best-known novels ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. Published in 1952, it was Hemingway’s final important fictive work to be published during his life. The story is about Santiago, an old fisherman, who did not catch any fish in 84 days. The parents of his pupil Manolin do no longer allow the boy to accompany him, he must join more successful fishermen, but the boy does not stop looking after the old man. In the evening he will bring Santiago food and they will talk endlessly about the famous American baseball player Joe DiMaggio.
That night Santiago tells the boy that the next day he will sail on his own as far as the Gulf Stream, north of Cuba in the Straits of Florida, and his ‘salao’ (the greatest misfortune) will be over. On day 85 at noon Santiago has a bite, a big fish and he strongly believes the fish to be a marline.
A struggle develops which will last three days and when the fish has finally been attached to his boat, Santiago is exhausted and almost delirious. While he is figuring up how much money this marline will bring him in, the first sharks appear, attracted by the trail of blood behind the boat. Santiago succeeds in beating off the first five sharks, but they continue returning. Eventually, he returns to the port with only the huge skeleton of the fish. When worried Manolin visits him that night, Santiago is asleep, dreaming about his childhood, lions on an African beach.

In 1953 ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the book contributed largely to the Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Ernest Hemingway in 1954.


Ernest Hemingway’s portrait was taken by the photographer Yousuf Karsh in 1957. Around his wrist he wears a steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual from the 1950s. The words that accompany the photo are the following:
‘He did not like to talk about his work. Once he had written a book, he said, it went out of his mind completely and no longer interested him. “I must forget what I have written in the past, before I can project myself into a new work.”
What did he think, I asked, about the large tribe of writers who imitate his style? The trouble with imitators, he said, was that they were able to pick out only the obvious faults in his work; they invariably missed his real purpose’.

Hemingway photographed by Yousuf Karsh in 1957

Hemingway gefotografeerd door Yousuf Karsh in 1957

Karsh’s comments on the photo:
‘I expected to meet in the author a composite of the heroes of his novels. Instead, in 1957, at his home Finca Vigía, near Havana, I found a man of peculiar gentleness, the shyest man I ever photographed – a man cruelly battered by life, but seemingly invincible. He was still suffering from the effects of a plane accident that occurred during his fourth safari to Africa. I had gone the evening before to La Floridita, Hemingway’s favourite bar, to do my “homework” and sample his favorite concoction, the daiquiri. But one can be overprepared! When, at nine the next morning, Hemingway called from the kitchen, “What will you have to drink?” my reply was, I thought, letter-perfect: “Daiquiri, sir.” “Good God, Karsh,” Hemingway remonstrated, “at this hour of the day!”’.


In the book titled ‘Across the river and Into the Trees’ (1950) Hemingway writes the following about a Rolex Oyster (p 117-118):
‘ “It’s just a muscle,” the Colonel said. “Only it is the main muscle. It works as perfectly as a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. The trouble is you cannot send it to the Rolex representative when it goes wrong. When it stops, you just do not know the time. You’re dead.”‘.

Jaap Bakker

January 29th



The Huygenshuis: victim of the 19th Century
by admin



A picture of the Huygenshuis just before it’s demolition in 1876. It had to make room for a new building for the Ministery of Justice. In it’s former gardens are now the buildings of the Dutch Parliament

Following is an article written by prof. dr. ir. C.A. Grimbergen about the history of the Huygenshuis until it’s dramatic end in 1876.
Mr. Grimbergen is among other things chairman of the Dutch Federatie Klokkenvrienden and chairman of the Dutch section of the Antiquarian Horological Society. He has also been, for over 25 years, member of the Board of the Museum van het Nederlandse Uurwerk in Zaandam.

As a whole the Netherlands have always been too modest about the the genius of Christiaan Huygens, who invented the pendulum clock and the balance spring.
For years the only books written about him came from foreign authors. On the 6th of October 1997 spaceship Cassini was launched into space carrying the European spacecapsule Huygens, a name the Americans had come up with, to put it on Saturn moon Titan in 2004. The whole event got very little attention in the Dutch press.

The article about the Huygenshuis:


Jaap Bakker

December 22nd


Rolex during WOII: the POW watch
by admin

Swiss watch sales received a severe blow thanks to the outbreak of WOII and things only got worse when Germany occupied Vichy in France in November 1942 and neutral Switzerland was completely surrendered by hostile troops. Watchmakers were closed off from their best clients, the British and the Americans.

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Pic.: In the right side of the picture Clive Nutting with his ‘Brothers in Arms’ in Stalag III

Rolex noticed that large numbers of British and American troops were literally on the doorstep to Switzerland, being held prisoner in the German POW camps. In camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany (now Poland) there were about 10,000 allied aviators who had been shot down over occupied Europe. In the whole German Empire thousands of officers were being held at several Oflag (officers POW camps).

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The genius of Hans Wilsdorf at that was that he, spring 1943, took a bet that the allies would win the war (significant because Wilsdorf himself was a German). He offered the thousands of POWs that they could get a Rolex now and that they didn’t have to pay for it until the war was over.
In a letter to Clive Nutting (more about him later) Wilsdorf wrote the following line: “…but you must not even think of settlement during the war”.
Wilsdorf was convinced that his illustration of faith would have a positive influence on the state of mind of the prisoners. Besides this, having a watch was of great importance to this group of prisoners, mainly aviators; if they saw a chance to escape the only way to reach the border was by train and for this they needed exact time.
The chronograph Rolex gave the prisoners the opportunity to exactly time the rounds of the ‘goons’ (camp guards) which lead to the ‘Great Escape’ on March 24-25 1944 when 76 men escaped through tunnel ‘Harry’ (in 1963 a movie was made called ‘The Great Escape’).

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Although most POWs choose the cheaper and smaller Speed King Clive Nutting (prisoner nr. 738 in Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany) became, on August 4 1943, the proud wearer of a new Rolex Oyster Chronograaf ref. 3525 (nr. 122, case nr. 185983).

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The following is a short description of this watch:

Two-body, polished and brushed, screwed-down case back, concave lugs. D. Matte black with luminous gilt-edged Arabic numerals, outer gilt minute/seconds track, subsidiary seconds and 30-minute register dials, outermost gilt tachometer and telemeter scales. Luminous gilt “baton” hands. M. 13”’, rhodium-plated, 17 jewels, straight line lever escapement, monometallic balance, self-compensating Breguet balance-spring, index regulator.

Dial, case and movement signed.

Diam. 35 mm. Thickness 14 mm.

In the beginning of the 1940s the steel version cost 350 and the 18k gold 935 Swiss Francs.

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Clive Nutting (on the right) was a professional shoemaker and therefore he was of great value to both the Germans as to the other prisoners. The Germans paid him well for this so he could sent money to his family at home and lent money to other prisoners. Even in these circumstances he was somebody who could afford a beautiful watch.

What makes Nutting’s watch so special is that is completely documented, at least until 2007.
Directly after the war, when he came home in Acton, London in August 1945, he wrote to Hans Wilsdorf that his watch, although it had withstood the cold circumstances during evacuation from the camp well, it was now an hour fast. Where can I have it repaired? Can I get the final bill for the watch?
Because of English rate restrictions Nutting receives the invoice for 15 Pounds 12s 6d not before 1948. He kept the watch until he died in 2001 in Australia, 90 years old.
In 2003, dated March 28, there is an invoice for 2,356 Australian Dollar (1,400 Euros) from a watchmaker in Sydney for Nutting’s watch.

pow:CN>restorereceipt 2003

In 2007 the Rolex of Nutting was offered for sale by auction house Antiquorum Geneva. The estimated price was 80,000-100,000 but the watch wasn’t sold. The current owner of this historical watch is unknown.

Jaap Bakker

December 2nd



Rolex as seen by artists
by admin

The mechanical movement of a Rolex watch in itself can cleary be called a form of art. Both technically, the whole of screws, cogs and coils that can accurately keep time, as esthetically, the beautiful way the movement is finished. But still there are people that go even further, people who approach the subject Rolex with their artistic skills.
The following pictures show that this phenomenon can take many forms. It is a colourful collection of drawings, sketches, paintings and statues. There is even a hotel that is designed around the theme Vintage Rolex watches.


Pic.: an artistic impression of a Rolex Daytona by the Italian artist Marcello Reboani.
The following link to his site shows another Rolex piece of art by Reboani:
Rolex Daytona by Marcello Reboani

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Pic.: the Rolex Milgauss as seen through the eyes of Charles Helleu.
Apart from Rolex Helleu also has pictures of other watch brands as can be seen on his site:
Horloges by Charles Helleu

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The three pictures above are made of pieces of art made by the Brazilian artist José Geraldo Reis Pfau. This 57 year old Brazilian was born and grew up in Blumenau, Santa Catarina. Reis Pfau constructs miniatures of motorcycles by using watch parts, Rolex also among them. For him it is still a hobby that he performs in the evening. Until now the collection, consisting of more than 200 pieces, is still private property but in the future Reis Pfau hopes to be able to sell them as well.
Reis Pfau’s passion for motorcycles started in the Sixties and along the way he became interested in building miniatures of them. While doing research into the possibilities for his newborn hobby he saw beautiful pieces made from wood, pottery, screws and wires but working with watch parts and glasses seemed to really be the way to go in the future.
A friend of Reis Pfau, Alexandre Ranieri Peters, was a great help to him in obtaining the nessessary parts. Ranieri Peters was a shop owner and he launched an advertising campaign saying that the customer, when buying a new watch or glasses, could use their old stuff as a first installment.
Take a look at many more motorcycles on the site of Reis Pfau:
José Geraldo Reis Pfau

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roku:rolex-clock-297x300 Hotel d'Orologio
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These pictures were taken at the fantastic Hotel d’Orologio in Florence. The starting point for the design and interior of this hotel has been the ‘International Haute Horlogerie’, with emphasis on the Vintage watches. Collector’s items from the watch world have served for details in the decoration and as suggestions for the interior design. The details are so subtle that for instance the taps look like watches’ crowns.
On the site of the Hotel d’Orologio there is a slide show with more beautiful pictures:
Hotel d’Orologio

The British artist Thomas Brown has a site which shows a lot of pictures made by him, about all sorts of subjects, but there are also four pictures of Rolex watches:
Thomas Brown Rolex

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In the above picture is the French painter Didier Valle, born in Paris in 1958 and now living and working in Bordeaux, with a painting of a Rolex Daytona. On his site he says: “I LOVE WATCHES, SO I PAINT THEM…”.
A couple of years ago he was working on a serie of paintings of collector’s cars dashboards when, looking at the clocks on the dashboard, he suddenly thought how logical it was to start painting watches: watches had everything he sought in a subject, different materials, formats, fonts and transparancy.
Following link shows a wall full of watch paintings by Valle, including two Rolex watches:
Didier Valle

Jaap Bakker

November 27th


Voltaire: main character in the watchmakers’ war
by admin

When thinking of difficult times for the Swiss watch industry, the troublesome 80s of the previous century are very likely to come to mind. The watch market was flooded with Japanese brands such as Casio, Citizen and Seiko with their digital watches. These were far more accurate than the mechanical watches from Switzerland, equipped with all kinds of new functions (e.g. calculators) and much cheaper. 
The Swiss watch industry was able to keep its head above water thanks to the brilliant invention of the Swatch. The mechanical watches gradually got back on their feet again and, in spite of the actual crisis, the sales of luxurious watches doubled in 2012.


However, in the late 18th century, a true war, the so-called watchmakers’ war, was fought between the Genevan watchmakers and the watch empire of the French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) at his domain in Ferney, France.


The flourishing Genevan watch industry in the 17th and 18th century was based on a solid commercial organisation in the city and, in addition, the ‘marchands etablisseurs’ who travelled around to buy components and assemble watches. 
It all looked well enough on paper, but in reality there were many abuses, socially, economically, politically, resulting in quite some watch makers emigrating to more hospitable places. All this was caused by the inflexible rules and regulations of the ‘Corporation des horlogers genevois’ which had the exclusive rights to employment. 
Eventually the Genevan watch industry got beaten at its own game. Talented watchmakers took up their residences in other cities and countries and started exerting their influence from there. They settled along Lake Leman, in the valleys of the Jura, Vaud and Neuchatel and the Erguel region of the canton of Bern. An even more serious threat to Geneva were the competitive watch producing centres in Moscow, Montbeliard and Pforzheim.

Voltaire had come to Geneva following the steps of the well-known physician Theodore Tronchin (1709-1781) and resided in his Genevan house ‘Les Delices’ from 1755 to 1760. Voltaire built a good relationship with the ‘cabinotiers’, the independent watchmakers who, like himself, were greatly interested in actual items on which they conducted lively debates. 
Voltaire took actively part in the Genevan conflict between the citizens and the ‘natifs’, an underprivileged group of people who were original Genevan inhabitants. Voltaire encouraged them to rebel and also invited their leaders. As a consequence the relationship between Voltaire and Geneva was flagging and in 1758 Voltaire bought an estate in Ferney (F). Once moved and settled into his new home, he accommodated the Genevan ‘natifs’ and planted orchards and vineyards in fallow land. Voltaire developed more and more into an industrialist investing in tannery, a tile oven, pottery and factories producing silk stockings, lace and ceramics.

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Pic.: Voltaire’s estate in Ferney in the 18th century

In 1766, the Republic of Geneva refused mediation for its internal conflicts, which was suggested by France and the large Swiss cantons. The French minister Choiseul then continued his economic war against the Republic, at the Versailles Court known as the ‘watchmakers’ war’, until 1769.
In the year 1770 a Genevan enactment offered the ‘natifs’ two options: either take an oath of loyalty and remain in the city or leave. Moreover, the city threw agitators out without mercy. Among them were the watchmakers Edouard Luya, Louis Philippe Pouzait, Pierre Rival and Guillaume Henri Valentin.
Choiseul had tried to start a new watch factory in Versoix, but in December 1770 he lost favour definitely and a substantial number of watchmakers who had not returned to Geneva sought the support of Voltaire in Ferney.
These developments led to opening the attack to the ‘Fabrique’ by Voltaire and he warmly welcomed the exodus of protestant watchmakers to the Catholic Gex district.
Ferney-Voltaire quickly developed from a few houses into 20 and eventually about 100. The ‘cabinotiers’ set to work in an old barrel which was equipped with benches and the factory was run by the watchmakers Pierre Dufour and Louis Ceret.

The high days of the Ferney “royal” (it never obtained this title officially) watch factory covered the period between 1770 and 1778. It appears from various letters that in that period the number of employees had grown from 40 to 1,200.
The first watches were ready in April 1770 and on the ninth of this month Voltaire wrote to Fr. de Caire that “they, although just started, had already enough watches to send to Spain in a small box. This is the beginning of a very large company”. Watches were sent to the Duke and Duchess of Choiseul, Voltaire’s patrons, and to the King. In ’70, ’71 and ’73 watches were also offered to the Versailles Court for royal weddings, but the majority of these consignments were not paid for.

The watchmakers worked in five other factories as well under the direction of partnerships: Pierre Dufour and his brother-in-law Louis Céret, Louis Servant and Antoine Boursault, Guillaume Henri Valentin and Antoine Dalleizette, Panrier and Mauzié, and Georges Auzière and his brother, for watch cases. Although none of the watches had the Voltaire signature, they all bore the name of Fernex, Ferney, Fernaix or Ferney Voltaire in Europe.

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Pic.: a watch made by Georges Auziere (1713-1799) in the eighties of the 18th century; it had a Ferney Voltaire, Mestral signed clockwork

Voltaire offered the watchmakers free loans and provided them with raw material, particularly gold. In this way he served as an ‘etablisseur’ according to the Genevan model and invested his large fortune in the company. Important part of his battle against the ‘Fabrique’ was that he had made arrangements with French Post for free consignments of Ferney watches.

An example of Voltaire’s marketing efforts is the following letter of the 20th of December 1771 to the Count of Aranda, a Spanish minister: “Should you wish to adorn the finger of a distinguished Spanish lady with a ring watch showing the seconds and repeating the quarters and half hours on a carillon, all decorated with diamonds, such a watch is only made in my village, and we are at your disposal. It is not vanity that makes me say this, since it was pure chance that brought me the only artist [probably watchmaker Jean François Auzière junior] who makes these little marvels – marvels that are not likely to disappoint you”.

The famous watchmaker Jean-Antoine Lepine worked for Voltaire until 1774 and after that he went to Paris to open his own shop in the Place Dauphine. The Lepine calibre, developed in 1775 or so, was used in Ferney.

The hardest problem Voltaire’s company faced was selling. In Spain and Turkey Geneva still held a position of authority. He approached Catherine II from Russia to help him conquer the Chinese market and the Tsarina became Voltaire’s best customer.
Voltaire used his network to the maximum illustrated by the following circular letter he wrote to the French ambassadors (5-6-’70):
“Sir, I have the honour of informing Your Excellency that Geneva’s burghers having unfortunately assassinated some of their fellow countrymen, several families of good watchmakers have taken refuge on a small estate I own in the Gex region, his Grace the Duke of Choiseul having placed them under the King’s protection. I have had the good fortune to enable them to practice their talents. These are Geneva’s best artists. They do work of all kinds and at a more moderate price than any other factory. They can very quickly do any enamel portrait for a watch case…”.

Voltaire praised his watches by saying that they were at least so good as those from London, Paris or Geneva and that, in addition, their price was 2/3 lower than the prices customers paid in Paris. However, Voltaire’s customers were poor payers. 
The catalogue contained a large number of types of watches exposed for sale: gold (18c versus 20c in Paris), enamelled watches, precious stones, clockworks with second hands, cylinder echappements, silver (lower carate than the competitors) and imitation stone and marcasite decorated. The enamelled types were concentrated on landscapes and portraits.
The quality of the clockworks varied. It appeared from an anonymous letter from 1773 that the Ferney workplaces produced approximately 4,000 watches annually (ca. 400 watchmakers), whereas Genevan ‘Fabrique’ produced 33,000 watches on an annual basis (5,000 watchmakers).

In 1775, the Ferney watch empire got into trouble by laborious negotiations for obtaining raw material and for various fiscal matters. In 1776, a watchmakers’ exodus from Ferney took place because the Genevan conditions had substantially improved. Simultaneously, Voltaire lost his interest in the watch industry. In Februari 1778 he moved to Paris in high expectations, but in May of the same year he died. 
After his death efforts were made to restore Ferney to its previous glories. Historically interesting is that, in 1793, the world-famous watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet was asked to save the factory, but he did not really succeed.

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Pic.: the actual Ferney-Voltaire

Jaap Bakker

November 13th


Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay: contest with Mount Everest
by admin


Edmund Hillary was born in Auckland (NZ) on 20 July 1919. His parents were Gertrude Hillary, born Clark, and Percival Augustus Hillary. In school Edmund was smaller than his peer group and he was a very shy boy taking refuge in his books and daydreaming about an adventurous life. He started boxing thanks to which he gained more confidence and he started growing. At the age of sixteen his interest in mounteneering was aroused during a school outing to Mount Ruapehu. Although 1.95 m and all lanky and leggy he discovered that he was physically stronger and had more stamina than his fellow climbers. Edmund studied maths and science at the University of Auckland and in 1939 he completed his first real climb when he reached the top of Mount Ollivier (in the Southern Alps). Together with his brother Rex he became a bee-keeper, a summer activity which allowed him to climb in winter. In the build-up to the climbing of the Mount Everest in 1953, Edmund participated in a number of other expeditions. In 1948 he reached the southern ridge of Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest peak of New-Zealand, together with Harry Ayres, Mick Sullivan and Ruth Adams. In 1951 Edmund took part in a British exploration of Everest led by Eric Shipton. In a team, also led by Shipton, Edmund and George Lowe tried to conquer Cho Oyu. When it became clear that it was impossible to do so from the Nepalese side, Edmund and Lowe crossed the Nup La to Tibet and reached the old Camp II, on the northern side where all of the pre-war expeditions had been.

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In 1952 Edmund and his friend George Lowe were invited by the Joint Himalayan Committee to join a British team and climb the Mount Everest the following year. Eric Shipton was the initial leader of the expedition, but he was replaced by Hunt. He composed 2 teams that were to reach the top. Team 1 included Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, team 2 Edmund and the sherpa Tenzing Norgay. It was extremely important to Edmund and Tenzing to create a good-working friendship.


Pic.: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, circa 1971

The Hunt expedition consisted of over 400 people including bearers and 20 Sherpa guides. The luggage weighed approximately 10.000 lbs. Lowe supervised the preparations for climbing the Lhotse Face, a large and steep ice wall and Edmund thought of a route through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. An indispensable part of Edmund’s equipment was the Rolex Oyster Explorer he was wearing around his wrist. In Edmund’s company, this watch reached the top of Mount Everest without a whimper.



The base camp was pitched in March, 1953. Slowly they climbed further towards the final camp on South Col at a height of 7,890 m. On 26 May, Bourdillon and Evans tried to reach the top, but they were forced to return, because Evans’ oxygen system failed. Eventually, the couple had reached the South Summit, being only 91 m below the top. Subsequently, it was Edmund’s and Tenzing’s turn to try to reach the top.


Severe snow storms and wind caused the duo to be stuck on the South Col for two days. On 28 May, they set off supported by the Lowe, Alfred Gregory and Ang Nyima trio. That same day Edmund and Tenzing pitched their tents at a height of 8,500 m while the supporting team descended. The next morning Edmund learned that his boots outside the tent were entirely frozen. It took him 2 full hours to defrost them, but then he and Tenzing were able to start their final climb to the top. They were packed up with 40 kilo weighted rucksacks. The crucial climbing phase was the conquering of a 12 meter high cliff (later called the Hillary Step). Stuck between the cliff and surrounding ice Edmund managed to work his way up through this crack, followed by Tenzing. From there it was relatively simple to reach the top. In the story he wrote later, ‘The Dream Comes True’ Tenzing argues that Edmund was the first to reach the top, but according to Edmund they jointly did so. They conquered the top of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth (8,848 m), at 11.30 a.m. As Hillary said: ‘A few more whacks of the ice axe in the firm snow, and we stood on top’. They stayed on top for only some fifteen minutes. There Edmund took the famous picture of Tenzing carrying his ice axe, but because Tenzing never took pictures, there are none of Edmund on top.


However, in Tenzing’s autobiography ‘Man of Everest’ he says that he offered to take pictures of Edmund, but the latter would not allow him (‘I motioned to Hillary that I would now take his picture. But for some reason he shook his head; he did not want it’). Tenzing left chocolats in the snow as some sacrifice and Edmund placed a cross he had received from John Hunt. Additional pictures were made to produce conclusive evidence that they had actually reached the top of Mount Everest.
The descent was rather tough because the snow had covered their tracks, so it was difficult for them to discover their earlier footsteps. The first person to congratulate Edmund and Tenzing was Lowe who had climbed up carrying hot soup to welcome them.
‘Well, George, we knocked the bastard off’ – Edmund Hillary’s first words to lifelong friend George Lowe on returning from Everest’s summit
The news about the successful expedition reached Engeland on Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation day and the press called this a coronation gift. By way of thanks for this 37 people of the team were awarded with the Queen Elizabeth II coronation medal, MOUNT EVEREST EXPEDITION being engraved on the rim. Edmund and Hunt were knighted by the young queen and Tenzing was awarded by the British Empire as well.



Below you will find a few more ads in connection with Edmund’s Oyster Explorer:





Pic.: The Rolex Oyster Explorer ref 6084 which was given to Edmund after he reached the top of Mount Everest

Jaap Bakker

October 10th



James Cameron in the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 2012
by admin


“I’ve always dreamed of diving to the deepest place in the oceans. For me it went from a boyhood fantasy to a real quest, like climbing Everest, as I learned more about deep-ocean exploration and became an explorer myself in real life. This quest was not driven by the need to set records, but by the same force that drives all science and exploration … curiosity.

So little is known about these deep places that I knew I would see things no human has ever seen. There is currently no submersible on Earth capable of diving to the ‘full ocean depth’ of 36,000 feet. The only way to make my dream a reality was to build a new vehicle unlike any in current existence. Our success during seven prior expeditions building and operating our own deep-ocean vehicles, cameras, and lighting systems gave me confidence that such a vehicle could be built, and not just with the vast resources of government programs, but also with a small entrepreneurial team.

It took more than seven years to design and build the vehicle, and it is still a work in progress. Every dive teaches us more, and we are continuing to improve the sub and its systems daily, as we move through our sea trials.” —James Cameron



On January 23rd 1960 Jacques Piccard and Lt. Don Walsh, a submarine commander in the US Navy, submerged with the vessel Trieste into the Mariana Trough near Guam. In the end they stayed for 20 minutes at a depth of 36,000 feet below sea level. During their decent they had heard cracking noises at a depth of 30,000 feet and when Piccard saw the cracks in the windows of the Trieste at the bottom of the trough he decided to return to the wild waves near Guam.

Director James Cameron has always been fascinated by life at the great depths of the world seas. He had already been aboard on several, mostly Russian MIG boats, submarines for 71 times before in 2002 he came up with the plan to submerge into the Mariana Trough. Simultaneously there are 3 other parties who are preparing for the same expedition. Among them a couple of familiar names, the founder of Google Eric Schmidt and Virgin boss Richard Branson.
In June 2011 a great honour befalls Cameron: the National Geographic Society adds him to the list of guest-researchers. Together with National Geographic and Rolex Cameron formulates the final plan to make the first manned dive into the Trough since 1960 and the first solo dive.


On the 23rd of June 2012 at 5.15 hour the Deepsea Challenger, Cameron’s submarine, slides into the salt water about 300 km southwest of Guam. After 2.36 hours Cameron is finally at the bottom of the Trough. He stays there for three hours to collect material and animals with the robot arm on his vessel and to make pictures and 3D movies. This is the big difference with the 1960 enterprise, Piccard and Walsh were at the bottom for only 20 minutes and didn’t do any research.

In 1960 Rolex had developed the Deep Sea Special especially for the dive of Piccard and Walsh. This watch was attached to the outside of the Trieste and withstood the enormous pressure at a depth of more than 10 km without a scratch.





In 2008 Rolex introduced an upgraded version of the famous Sea-Dweller, called the Sea-Dweller Deepsea. The former watch was water resistant to a depth of 1,220 m, the latter could even go to 3,900 m.

JC:SD Deepsea:wp

JC:SD Deepsea:zijkant

JC:SD Deepsea:3;4

For the expedition of Cameron Rolex pushed the limits of the watch even further. They designed the Deepsea Challenge 2012, developed with the Sea-Dweller Deepsea as starting point. Technical aspects of the 2008 model, like the Ring Lock System, the Triplock crown and the case back in titanium, were also used on the new model.

JC:overzicht 3 modellen

The Deepsea Challenge was prepared to withstood the enormous pressure of the water at a gigantic depth of 12,000 km. To do this Rolex needed a pressure tank in which tests could be performed at a pressure of 1,500 bar. In cooperation with the French diving firm COMEX (Rolex made Submariners and Sea-Dwellers for this firm for years) they made the tank they needed. Under these circumstances the pressure on the watch glass is 17 tons, on the case back 23 tons and 40 tons on the middle part.

To be able to cope with these enormous pressures the case is even bigger and the sapphire glass even stronger. The diameter of the Deepsea Challenge is 51,4 mm and it’s height is 28,5 mm, 10,8 mm more than the not really slender Sea-Dweller Deepsea. The sapphire glass is 14,3 mm thick (compared to the serie model’s 5,5 mm).
When compared to the Deep Sea Special from 1960 it becomes clear how much progress Rolex has made with the 2012 model, especially in the use of materials. The latter model is 7,5 mm less thick than the watch from 1960.

In part caused by the movie on YouTube that shows the design and manufacturing of the Deepsea Challenge 2012 collectors started intense speculations if Rolex would ever bring the watch, limited or not, to the market. Unfortunately this never happened.


JC:DC:wp donker1

Jaap Bakker

September 28th