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THE KING POWER UNICO AWARDED "BEST CHRONOGRAPH"

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THE KING POWER UNICO AWARDED "BEST CHRONOGRAPH" OF THE GERMAN "UHREN MAGAZINE" TECHNICAL TEST


One of the most demanding technical tests in the Watchmaking industry run by Uhren Magazine in Germany awarded the Hublot King Power Unico, Best Chronograph compared to its competitors.

We are extremely proud to share with you the English Translation of thearticle in order to provide you the complete information about this excellent result.

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Uhren Magazin (Germany) – January 2014

THE CLASH OF THE TITANS

Audemars Piguet, Hublot, IWC — Titanium chronographs

They are among the biggest in the watch world – and not only when it comes to their case dimensions. The Royal Oak Offshore from Audemars Piguet and the IWC Ingenieur are without doubt iconic timepieces, and Hublot's King Power is well on its way to becoming one too. Our comparison test will show what separates the three pieces.

We could call them giants because they were no pipsqueaks when they came into the world. In 1972, Audemars Piguet presented the Royal Oak, named after an old tree that is steeped in history. Its original single -shell case was only eight millimetres thick, but measured 40 millimetres in diameter. This diameter may be completely normal and widely available today, but at the time, it was outlandishly proportioned.

This applied more than ever to the next developmental model – the Royal Oak

Offshore, which was presented in  1993. Its case shares the same diameter, but at 14.6 millimetres, its thickness is almost twice that of the original Royal Oak.

Today's test timepiece is almost as thick, but sits on a 42-millimetre case base, which is seemingly small when compared with the other two comparison models.

The diameter of the IWC Ingenieur Double Chronograph is almost three millimetres larger, and the timepiece is considerably thicker at 15.89 millimetres. When the SL model Ingenieur was launched on the market in 1976 in

the shape that we recognise today, the diameter of the case matched the Royal Oak at 40 millimetres, and was considered to be very large at the time, which is why it was nicknamed the "Jumbo". Hublot's King Power Unico had a much smoother ride. It came to life at a time when jumbo timepieces were in great demand. In 2010, it arrived on the market as the expressive successor to the Big Bang – originally launched in 2006 and whose  appearance held

nothing back. The flyback chronograph's diameter is larger than 48 millimetres, and at 17.61 - millimetres thick, it has the most lavish dimensions of any timepiece in this chronograph comparison.  

Titanium enhances the character of these timepieces  

The Titans named the material that unites our three watch giants.

Incidentally, not only are they giants in terms of their size, but also in terms of their  character, figuratively speaking. We can consider all three pieces to be markedly expressive, and therefore widely recognised timepiece greats. The element that unites them – titanium – was discovered in an ore in 1795 by the German chemist Heinrich Klaproth, who named it after the race of Greek gods known as the Titans. In this way, Audemars Piguet with its Royal Oak Offshore, IWC with its Ingenieur and Hublot with its King Power are all able to highlight their character through their choice of case material. Titanium is seen as technical, sporty and, in times of seemingly limitless material experiments, trendsetting and modern.

There are also various other features that are deemed to be advantageous in the watchmaking world. If the wearer is looking for a durable yet light-weight timepiece, then titanium is the right choice: Titanium is 42% lighter than stainless steel. The weight difference is therefore noticeable even on a small wristwatch. Currently weighing in at 160 grams, if the Royal Oak Offshore Titanium Chronograph were to be completely made of stainless steel, it would tip the scales at 380 grams. If the wearer has to subject the timepiece to wind and rain, large temperature fluctuations and aggressive steams or liquids, then titanium is also the preferred material. It forms an oxide layer, which consequently makes it resistant to corrosion and therefore desensitises it to many elements. This layer also prevents chemical reactions with the skin, which means titanium is even suitable for those who suffer from allergic reactions – regardless of whether it is as part of a hip replacement or a wristwatch.

However, the raw material itself, as well as processing it, is very expensive. Pure titanium is rarely found on earth and it therefore has to be produced using complex chemical processes. Furthermore, it is difficult

to process, which results in more wastage than for other materials. Polishing is also difficult as titanium is relatively soft. Although polishing and many other work steps have been mastered in the meantime, numerous manufacturers favour a satin finish, not least to highlight the technical character of the material, and consequently of the timepiece. First up is IWC with the Ingenieur from the completely revised 2013 collection, which, as a timepiece, is the most committed of all the timepieces manufactured in Schaffhausen (Switzerland) to the brand's technical character. As a Porsche Design licence holder at the time, IWC had already presented the first titanium chronograph in 1981.

For Audemars Piguet, titanium timepieces were first included in the collection in 1996, including in combination with gold and platinum, but these have now been discontinued. In contrast to the IWC Ingenieur shown here, the case and bracelet on the Royal Oak Offshore also have polished components, such as on the bezel and on the caseback, or even as chamfers on different bracelet links. They add a fine, sporty touch. On the other hand, the Hublot King Power only has satin-finished titanium components,

combined with other materials such as rubber or composite resin – fully in keeping with Jean-Claude Biver's (former CEO) staged strategy of fusion.  

Mixed materials as a brand philosophy

The famous material mix is not only a Hublot trademark, but also a powerful statement for the complex King Power case. Its sustainable appearance starts with its visibly opulent dimensions and ends with its seemingly inconspicuous details. These include, for example, the six H-shaped, blackened titanium screws that hold the bezel in place. This was seen as a stumbling block countless times because the screws crowned the bezel without being aligned at all. And thread connections did not produce a more uniform picture either. This is in complete contrast to the screw connections for the Audemars Piguet bezel, which we will discuss later. You can find many H-shaped screws on the King Power case. Eight of them hold the sapphire-crystal caseback in place, two each are needed to fix various bracelet end-pieces to the case and a further two are needed to secure each bracelet component to the bracelet end-pieces. This ensures it is put

together securely, which in turn means it is easy to wear the King Power on your wrist – despite its case dimensions. The small screws made of composite resin in the side inserts are even harder to discover. They link the plastic edges with two titanium case elements between the bezel and the back. All together, this creates a powerful image, which is further optically and functionally emphasised by black rubber components. The supports on the angular chronograph push-buttons improve the safety of the push mechanism, for example. All actions – starting, stopping, resetting and using the flyback function, if available – run harmoniously and are well balanced given the underlying control-wheel technology used in the movement. The side rubber insert on the bezel is less of a functional element and more of a design feature. If it were possible to turn it, it would undoubtedly be easy to grasp, but this function is no t intended here. Despite a ten-bar water-resistant and pressure-resistant case, the crown on the King Power can be removed without any screwing. Thanks to its size and chunky ribbing on the side, it is easy to hold the crown when manually winding the timepiece, but it is only possible to turn the crown on to the two additional positions for the quick date correction and the hand

position using fingernails.  

Titanium

The modern case material is both technical and sporty, temperature- and corrosion-resistant, and above all, light. It is therefore perfectly suitable for complex sport watches.

The cases of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore and the IWC Ingenieur Double Chronograph share some similarities. For example, their designer Gérald Genta. In 1972, he designed the Royal Oak and the Ingenieur followed four years later. While the general appearance of the Audemars Piguet timepiece has remained largely unchanged over the years, the Ingenieur has had several facelifts, as well as a complete makeover in 2013. As part of this makeover, five screws replace the holes in the bezel that have become a trademark over the years, and which have been used to screw the ring into the case until now. For the same reason as the H -shaped screws on the Hublot timepiece, the five recesses on the Ingenieur bezel do not always create a

harmonious picture, which also occasionally brings about discontent. But this issue has finally been put to bed: The five screws not only sit in a fixed place, but also do not have a slot at the top, so that they cannot be screwed into the case inelegantly for one reason or another. They are screwed to the case body using ribbing on the side. This is very reminiscent of the original Ingenieur and its combination of a barrel-shaped and round case. The centre part tapers off to the compact bracelet end-pieces, which are integrated into the bracelet components, while round shapes dominate the bezel and the caseback. The solid caseback is screwed in place using a thread and the entire construction is resistant to pressures of up to 12 bar. The crown is also screwed in place on the Ingenieur. Thanks to the rubber mould with ribbing on the side, it is easy to turn the crown and use it for manual winding. The crown can also be turned effortlessly to its weekday and quick-date-correction positions, as well as the hand position. It is securely screwed in place within a rubber-coated casing.

Rubber – a functional material component

Chronograph push-buttons have a completely new look.

Just like a type of toggle switch, they are screwed to the bracelet end-pieces with the case centre part and slant towards the pressure points in the movement. These are correspondingly different, depending on the sliding lever

in the underlying ETA/Valjoux 7750 movement. Starting is a little more difficult than the intermediate stop using the push-button at two o'clock, and more difficult than using the split-second function using a third push-button at ten o'clock. Resetting using the push-button at four o'clock also requires a little more force. The comfortable and safe-to-use chronograph push-buttons are supported by a rubber casing around the titanium core.

Rubber also plays a part on the case of the Royal Oak Offshore. It surrounds the classic chronograph push - buttons in a cylindrical shape, and the crown in an octagon shape. However, using and turning the crown is a litt le

more problematic than on the IWC Ingenieur because everything happens inside a very sharp-edged casing. In terms of the movement, the manual winding, quick-date correction and hand position are even more harmonious.

The two chronograph push-buttons are not screwed and are easy to handle thanks to their rubber coverings. As with the IWC Ingenieur, the pressure sensitivity is in line with typical escapements in a sliding block, but here this occurs in a module from Dubois Dépraz using the Audemars Piguet base calibre 3126. There are no additional  chronograph features on the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, such as the flyback on the Hublot King Power  Unico or the split second on the IWC Ingenieur. 

The mark of a renowned designer

The Royal Oak, and also its successor as the Offshore, is an iconic timepiece. As previously mentioned, it was designed by Gérald Genta and its main appearance has hardly changed for over 40 years. As with the IWC, a barrel-shaped body is a common sight. However, above it is an

octagon-shaped bezel design, which is held in place by eight hexagon screws. A certain amount of styling is therefore being recreated by the Gérald Genta designs. And if we did not know better, we could also assume such a similarity with the Hublot King Power. In contrast with the Hublot case, the slits on the Audemars Piguet screws are perfectly aligned with the centre of the timepiece. The trick: The screws are secured in casings, which are embedded in the back or the centre part, and are fixed in place from there. The original Royal Oak case was in two parts and is held together purely using this configuration. However, the Offshore is in three parts, which means the back is secured using eight round screws, independently of the bezel.

As with the case on the Hublot King Power, you may not discover the extravagance of the Royal Oak Off shore case until you take a closer look. For example, countless facets on all parts of the case, the design -shaping  rubber ring inserted below the bezel, or exactly the same integration of the bracelet using two narrow bars in the  angled extension of the case centre part. As with the Hublot timepiece, the bracelet is also

screwed to the case on the Audemars Piguet timepiece.

On  the  other  hand,  there  are  also  screw  connections  on  some  bracelet  links  to  the  folding  buckle.  The  construction of the titanium bracelet is as typical as the Royal Oak Offshore itself, consisting of wide links, each one connected by two narrow bars. The clasp folds on two sides and is then released using two push -buttons on  the side.

The IWC Ingenieur and the Hublot King Power are worn on rubber bracelets. However, Biver's fusion strategy has completely changed the perception that the Hublot can be classed as a trademark in its own way. Beforehand, when you purchased a Hublot timepiece, the bracelet had to be fitted to your wrist, but now the bracelet components are variable. However, they are still smooth on the inside, which means it is easy to start sweating, and it also creates an imposing structure on the outside. The two bracelet components end in a single -sided, foldable, partly blackened titanium clasp in the shape of the brand logo. On one side, the clasp is secured in place with a rubber strap. On the other side, you insert the holed section of

the bracelet into a double hook clasp with  two pins of differing lengths, which means it is fastened very securely. The one-sided catch fastener locks firmly and is then released using two push-buttons on the side. Despite its size, the timepiece sits surprisingly well on your wrist.  

The same can be said of the IWC Ingenieur. This is because the two rubber bracelet parts engage with the  sharply angled bracelet end-piece. The construction is pinned and not screwed. It therefore moves significantly less than the construction of the Hublot King Power, but this does not detract from the fastening on the wrist. There are no additional chronograph features on the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, such as the flyback on the Hublot King Power Unico or the split second on the IWC Ingenieur.  

The mark of a renowned designer

The Royal Oak, and also its successor as the Offshore, is an iconic timepiece. As previously mentioned, it was designed by Gérald Genta and

its main appearance has hardly changed for over 40 years. As with the IWC, a barrel-shaped body is a common sight. However, above it is an octagon-shaped bezel design, which is held in  place by eight hexagon screws. A certain amount of styling is therefore being recreated by the Gérald Genta designs. And if we did not know better, we could also assume such a similarity with the Hublot King Power. In contrast with the Hublot case, the slits on the Audemars Piguet screws are perfectly aligned with the centre of the timepiece. The trick: The screws are secured in casings, which are embedded in the back or the centre part, and are fixed in place from there. The original Royal Oak case was in two parts and is held together purely using this configuration. However, the Offshore is in three parts, which means the back is secured using eight round screws, independently of the bezel. As with the case on the Hublot King Power, you may not discover the extravagance of the Royal Oak Offshore case until you take a closer look. For example, countless facets on all parts of the case,  the design-shaping rubber ring inserted below the bezel, or exactly the same integration of the bracelet using two narrow bars in the angled extension of the case centre part.

As with the Hublot timepiece, the bracelet is also screwed to the case on the Audemars Piguet timepiece. On  the  other  hand,  there  are  also  screw  connections  on  some  bracelet  links  to  the  folding  buckle.  The construction of the titanium bracelet is as typical as the Royal Oak Offshore itself, consisting of wide links, each one connected by two narrow bars. The clasp folds on two sides and is then released using two push-buttons on the side.

The IWC Ingenieur and the Hublot King Power are worn on rubber bracelets. However, Biver's fusion strategy has completely changed the perception that the Hublot can be classed as a trademark in its own way.

Beforehand, when you purchased a Hublot timepiece, the bracelet had to be fitted to your wrist, but now the bracelet components are variable. However, they are still smooth on the inside, which means it is easy to start sweating, and it also creates an imposing structure on the outside. The two bracelet components end in a single - sided, foldable, partly blackened titanium clasp in the shape of the brand logo. On one side, the clasp is

secured in place with a rubber strap. On the other side, you insert the holed section of the bracelet into a double hook clasp with two pins of differing lengths, which means it is fastened very securely.

The one-sided catch fastener locks firmly and is then released using two push-buttons on the side. Despite its size, the timepiece sits surprisingly well on your wrist. The same can be said of the IWC Ingenieur. This is because the two rubber bracelet parts engage with the sharply angled bracelet end-piece. The construction is pinned and not screwed. It therefore moves significantly less than the construction of the Hublot King Power, but this does not detract from the fastening on the wrist. The rubber bracelet has a strong structure above and below, which means you do not work up as much of a sweat as with the Hublot bracelet. It is, however, only fastened using a simple pin buckle. There is nothing wrong with a pin buckle, but for some more sporty, active wearers it may prove a little too insecure, and too mundane for some technically experienced engineers.  

Interesting solutions for chronograph variants

If the IWC Ingenieur, the Royal Oak Offshore from Audemars Piguet and Hublot's King Power Unico are first and foremost chronographs, they differ greatly in terms of functionality and technology. Let us begin with seemingly the most simple – the IWC calibre 79421. Insiders will recognise from the numbering that it is not a Manufacture Calibre,  but  rather  a  movement  based  on  an  ETA/Valjoux  7750.  However,  in  addition  to  the  integrated chronograph mechanism, the IWC also has a split-second function in the shape of a module. It is the ultimate further development for a chronograph and thanks to two stop-second hands, it is possible to record split times. 

Although the functional principle of a double chronograph only differs slightly from a simple chronograph, the construction requirements, in contrast, are very high and the developments are correspondingly expensive, which is a reason why there are not many split-seconds chronographs to be found. The in-house development from the Schaffhausen-based  manufacture  was  first  produced  in  1992.  At  the  time,  several  manufacturers  were concentrating on the modular

upgrade of the ETA/Valjoux 7750 to a double chronograph.

For example, while Ulysse Nardin placed the split-second mechanism below the dial, in the IWC calibre 79421 it is positioned on the movement's bridge side, so on the caseback. It is controlled using a cam, which opens or closes pincers. If the pincers are opened, an additional second wheel from the stop-second wheel is also towed along.

This should not be confused with a flyback, which we can find in the Hublot calibre HUB 1240, named "Unico". This special stop function makes it possible to make a flying restart of the chronograph (hence the term "flyback") from a measurement that is already running, without having to reset it in the meantime. The Unico calibre, which was completely developed by Hublot and is largely produced in their own workshops, was presented in 2010,

after it was initially designed as a limited-edition movement and then constructively redesigned on an industrial scale. It is a column-wheel

chronograph with a horizontal clutch, whose mechanics are located below the dial side of the movement. This is a distinctive feature since the stop mechanism on an integrated chronograph can normally be found on the movement's bridge side.

Thanks to the generally open dial on the King Power, the chronograph's under-dial work can also be seen beautifully. But there are also more special features to be discovered. The Unico calibre not only has one horizontal clutch, but two. The stop-minute counter is engaged directly, and as a consequence it moves permanently, rather than jumping as with the ETA/Valjoux 7750. The power needed for this is channelled directly from the barrel via a gear-train ratio, while the power required for the stop-second hand is transferred conventionally from the second wheel. In addition, on the dial side at three o'clock, sixty stop minutes are timed, rather than the usual thirty, which makes perception easier. As a result, there is no hour-counter function on the HUB 1240. It therefore uses a bi-compax construction with two auxiliary dials – one for the stop minutes at three o'clock and one for the small seconds at nine o'clock. The latter

dial helps to set the timepiece precisely using a lock on the balance. The oscillator, which has a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour, is located underneath a height-adjustable bridge and is therefore in a very stable position. The entire assembly can be removed, including the silicon escapement components – a pallet fork and escapement wheel. The modular construction facilitates maintenance of the movement, and simplifies the work for watchmaker service technicians. The HUB 1240 is wound using a ceramic-ball-bearing heavy-metal rotor on both sides and generates a power reserve of at least three days, which is stored in a reinforced main spring.

Varying rate values

Manufactured of 22-carat gold and adorned with the AP monogram and the crest of the two founding families, Audemars and Piguet, the rotor in the Audemars Piguet base calibre 3126 also has ceramic ball bearings, can be wound both ways and generates a power reserve of 55 hours. The calibre 3126 goes back to the classic three - hand 3120 movement with a stop second and

instantaneous jumping date, which Audemars Piguet first presented in 2004 after approximately five years in development. As already mentioned, the 3126 version is combined with a chronograph module from Dubois Dépraz. The module sits in the dial-side of the movement, so that the date sinks from the base calibre into a deep recess. As with the ETA/Valjoux 7750 calibre, there is a sliding block in the chronograph escapement in the module from Dubois Dépraz. The resulting dial-side arrangement of the functions differs from the 7750 arrangement, however. The running second is not at nine o'clock, but rather at twelve o'clock. Instead, the chronograph minutes are counted at nine o'clock.  It is permanently moving, as on the HUB 1240, which would suggest a similar constructive approach. In contrast with the Unico calibre, on the Audemars Piguet, frozen hour intervals are also displayed at six o'clock, as is customary on the ETA/Valjoux 7750.  

As on the Hublot movement, the Gyromax balance from Audemars Piguet also swings under a stable bridge, which can be used to easily adjust the bearing height of the platform, without changing the angle of the balance bearing

to the balance staff. The moveable balance-spring stud holder loops the end of the Nivarox 1A spiral in a special construction, which regulates the beat. Eight inertia blocks regulate the rate, which is more complex than the regulator system that can be found on the Hublot and IWC, but it is more precise and sustainable. Or rather, it should be more precise, but unfortunately the rate values cannot quite support the facts. Or instead, the timepiece is deliberately regulated in advance as it permanently runs ahead in all situations. When it is fully wound, it is 7.3 seconds ahead; after running for 24 hours without being re-wound, it is 9.3 seconds ahead, and when worn on the wrist and in chronograph mode, it is even more than 10 seconds ahead. A very large beat error is also noticeable at the left crown position.  

The IWC Chronograph beats somewhat better. When fully wound, it run 5.9 seconds ahead. After 24 hours, it is only 2.1 seconds ahead, and in chronograph mode, it is 2.9 seconds ahead. According to the measurement results on the electronic watch timing machine, the rate results differ on the wrist.  

In a two-week wear test, the timepiece deviates by 7.5 seconds per day on average. The Hublot King Power beats the most accurately, particularly on the wrist. After the two-week wear test, only once was it three seconds ahead of standard time. On the watch timing machine, it runs 2.9 seconds ahead when fully wound. However,  after 24 hours, it is 4.7 seconds ahead, but in chronograph mode, it is only 1.8 seconds ahead. When the chronograph runs, a skeletal arrow hand runs over the dial on the Hublot King Power in a four-heart rhythm. The fact  that  it  turns  above  an  equally  skeletal  background  was  intentional:  The  brand  wants  to  highlight  the underlying technology.  

Hublot King Power Unico

The contemporary material mix reflects the brand's fusion philosophy. The "Unico" Manufacture Calibre is a very specially constructed, integrated chronograph.    

Compromising on readability of the time and functions

Incidentally, the dial is not a glass pane, as one might initially assume, but is created from carbon fibre. Despite numerous facets of micro-blasted index appliques and skeletal hands, it is phenomenally easy to read the time over the dial, even at night. But you have to look a little more closely to read the chronograph functions. The seconds – excluding fives and tens – are scribed on a dark, steep ring. The minutes can be read much more intuitively thanks to the sixty-minute division, rather than the usual thirty-minute division; but when it comes to the single minutes, you do need a well-trained eye. The dial of the Royal Oak Offshore is well-known with its waffle- like "tapestry" guillochage. We have already discussed the date, which is positioned more deeply as a result of the movement. However, the magnifying glass that has been positioned above it only helps you to read the date if you seemingly look directly through the glass from above. At this point, it should also be noted that the skeletal date on the Hublot King Power is not much easier to read, even if it is on a much higher level as a result of the construction. On the Royal Oak Offshore, it is much harder to read the time when compared with the King Power because the hands and hour appliques are filled with dark

luminescent colour. The black fillings not only make an unusual impression in the daylight, but their lighting effect also takes some getting used to in the dark. To begin with, it seems as though they do not shine at all. But once your eyes have adjusted to the green appearance in darkness, the time is very easy to read.  

Split-second module: This function is in an unusual position on the IWC calibre. It is an in-house development based on an  ETA/Valjoux 7750.  The small second and stop function are displayed using red hands. The tip of the central stop second hand points to a subtle scale, which, with four dividing lines, does not correspond with the three-heart rhythm of the underlying Audemars Piguet base calibre 3126, which separates the seconds into six, rather than five or ten. To compensate for this, there is also a tachometer scale on the dial ring that can be used to determine speeds, if necessary.  

Contradictory price and performance

The silvered dial on the IWC Ingenieur is classic and unspectacular, but is very balanced. Common mistakes are simply not made. Such as the incorrect division of the stop seconds on the Audemars Piguet, for example. On the IWC, this division was not even considered in the first place – and neither was it on the Hublot King Power, incidentally. Moreover, poorly cropped numbers do not appear as on the Royal Oak Offshore. Instead, correspondingly shortened index appliques make room for the auxiliary dials, as well as the day and date functional displays.

Overall, it creates a very harmonious image, even in darkness. However, the illuminated short end of the small second hand is more of a marketing ploy because in terms of functional detail, it is at best a function control. In

contrast, illuminating the stop function would make sense if the illuminated tip of the stop-second hand were not to lie mostly under the split second, therefore resulting in a storage capacity that tends towards zero. While the stop function on the Audemars Piguet Offshore is

not illuminated at all, only the tip of the stop-minute hand is illuminated on the Hublot, which also makes little sense because, in the best possible case, you can only see the unilluminated stop-second hand when it crosses an hour index.

Stop! There are many similarities, but also differences in the details of the titanium watch giants we have tested. Although there is no Manufacture Calibre ticking in the IWC Ingenieur, it provides the most functions at the best price, even if it is a little high. The Hublot King Power can throw the most manufacture, excellent rate values and innovation into the ring. Now only the classic Royal Oak Offshore needs to show its hand in this Clash of the Titans – a modular chronograph without any additional functions, with only average rate values and an astonishingly high price.

Text: Martina Richter

Photographs: Zuckerfabrik Fotodesign

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