Blog

Review Arnold & Son DSTB  –  An Englishman, a Swiss and a Japanese walk into a bar…

Avatar Paul By Paul Translation: Deutsch Write a comment

Table of contents

Why do I wear a wristwatch?

The answer to this seemingly simple question can be complex. Of course you want to be able to tell the time. But that may not be your primary concern. A watch is first and foremost a piece of jewelry that underscores your own style: sportiness, robustness, elegance, an affinity for technology, beauty, history, and so on. Perhaps the watch is a memento of a loved one who is or was close to you. Or the watch is a way of saying to yourself and those around you, “look, I can afford expensive and elegant things”. The best way to counter accusations of ostentation is to remember that if the wearer of a luxury watch is bitten by a snake in the middle of nowhere, he will always find a bush pilot to fly him to the nearest hospital without hesitation.

There are probably a thousand reasons for wearing a watch. But there’s always a story involved: your own or someone else’s, true or invented, ancient or futuristic.

Let’s take the first leg of our little journey. It won't take us all the way to the end of the world, just over the Alps. To Bella Italia.

First stop: Florence. The main thing is Italy!

43° 47′ 0″ 11° 15′ 0″

Firenze
Firenze

It’s worth taking a closer look at the painting just shown. The portrait, painted around 1560, shows the nobleman Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Florence. One of the most powerful and wealthiest men in central Europe at the time. Much more important than that is one small detail in the painting. What the prince is holding in his right hand is a real sensation: a pocket watch! The first pocket watches were made in southern Germany around 1500. Historians believe that the portrait of the Medici prince by the master Maso da San Frianoi is one of the very first depictions of a pocket watch in the history of art.

Portrait of Cosimo I. de Medici, around 1560, painted by Maso da San Friano.

As a man of his time, an absolute ruler and at the same time devoted to technical achievements, Cosimo I. shows himself as the proud owner of a watch. The picture clearly shows how the case and bezel of the watch have been opened and the winding key for the movement is attached to a loop. From today’s point of view, we would see Cosimo I. as a kind of “Elderly Rich” and call him an “Early Adopter”. In any case, his “Credibilita della Strada” must have been striking at the time. But the watch in the painting is much more than a status symbol; Cosimo I. is not just the owner of a luxury object – what he holds in his hand is the symbolic harbinger of a future turning point.

Technology and science will significantly change social and political conditions. The Middle Ages are definitely over. Time is money! The earth has finally become a sphere, what was global is now the extended local. Half of Europe will look for new destinations on the globe.

What we now call globalization began in the 16th century with seafarers and the merchants and bankers who stayed behind in the ports of Europe. The latter eagerly awaited their “return on investment”, which in fact took the form of ships returning from distant lands loaded with goods of all kinds. Just as the earth orbits the sun, money now orbits the earth on the high seas. But the world’s oceans are extremely dangerous terrain.

To survive on the oceans, you not only need good sailing ships, you also need to know where you are. Which brings us to the second stop on our little journey, the west coast of England.

Second stop: Isles of Scilly. In the beginning was disaster!

49° 55′ 30″ 6° 17′ 56″

Scilly Islands
Scilly Islands

The disaster occurred in 1707 as a convoy of English warships was returning from the Mediterranean to Portsmouth. In bad weather on the evening of October 22, 1707, four of the 21 ships in the Royal Fleet ran aground simultaneously on the rocks off the Isles of Scilly, in the far west of England.

Nearly 2000 sailors died because the Admiral of the Fleet and his officers completely miscalculated their position. Believing they were still many miles west of Cornwall, they headed east in poor visibility without a second thought. The drama – the largest non-combat loss ever suffered by the British Navy – struck at the heart of England as a maritime nation. The main cause of the disaster off the Isles of Scilly was the old and still unresolved question: how do you determine the longitude of your current position as accurately as possible on the open sea?

At that time, only the latitude could be easily determined. At noon, the ship’s navigator determined the exact height of the sun at its zenith and calculated the angle between the sun and the horizon using the Jacob’s staff or sextant. At night, at least in the northern hemisphere, this could also be done relatively easily using the North Star.

Determining the position of a star at night was also much easier on the eye. At that time, probably 10 out of 10 sailors responsible for determining the position had at least one blind eye after only a few years of service.

Determining longitude, i.e. the position east or west of a given reference point, was difficult and sometimes impossible. Logs (pieces of wood on a line thrown into the water) were used to determine the approximate speed traveled from home port in a westerly or easterly direction. The English called this method Dead Reckoning.

Since the Dead Reckoning method was very inaccurate, many captains preferred to sail along the coasts whenever possible. Or they would choose a certain latitude and, with the help of a compass, sail stubbornly in a certain direction. Just like Columbus did on his first voyage to America.

Over time, some ludicrous ideas for determining longitude began to emerge. For example, ships or platforms were to be anchored every 600 nautical miles on the world’s oceans and a cannon shot was to be fired at fixed times. Sailors were supposed to use the sound to calculate their distance from these ships, taking into account the speed of sound and the specified signal times, and thus determine their geographic longitude.

In the end, this abstruse idea acted as a catalyst. The longitude problem must now finally be solved.

This brings us to the third stop on our journey, London.

Third stop: Westminster Palace. Gentlemen, start your brains!

51° 29′ 58″ 0° 7′ 27″

Westminster Palace
Westminster Palace

In 1714, the British Parliament passed the Longitude Act, which offered prize money for the reliable determination of longitude at sea. The astronomical sum of £20,000 was offered to anyone who could develop a method of determining longitude to within half a degree on a six-week voyage to the Caribbean. A difference of one degree in longitude is equivalent to 60 nautical miles (about 111 km) at the equator and about 40 nautical miles (about 74 km) across the English Channel. The Board of Longitude was set up as a competition jury to examine the proposals received and decide on the award.

There were two methods that were in constant competition for the prize. One was to calculate longitude using the phases of the moon, and the other was using the exact solar time.

The challenge with the latter method was to know the exact time at a particular location. This approach is based on the Earth taking a total of 24 hours to complete a full 360° rotation. If you divide 360° by the 24 hours of a full day, one hour of time difference is exactly 15°.

All you need now is the exact (solar) time at two different locations: on board the ship and at a reference location, such as your home port with a known longitude. From the difference between the two solar times, one’s own position can easily be determined. The current position is related to 24 hours as the difference in longitude is related to 360°.

If it’s noon on the ship and it’s 10 o’clock at Greenwich (0° longitude), the time difference is 2 hours, or a total of 30°. Together with the latitude, the exact position of the ship can now be calculated.

In theory, the problem had long been solved. In practice, however, there was an insurmountable obstacle. Although the clocks known at the time were very accurate on land, such clocks could not be used on board a ship on the high seas, where there were waves, humidity and temperature differences. The most accurate clocks on land were pendulum clocks, but these were unsuitable for calculating longitude simply because of the sea conditions. A clock showing the time at the reference point would have to be accurate to at least 4 minutes per day to be a reliable means of determining longitude.

The race for clockwork precision in the most adverse conditions was officially on. One man who rose to the challenge was the carpenter and autodidact John Harrison.

In 1737 he presented his H1 clock to the Board of Longitude and asked for a loan of £500 and two more years to improve the clock. The H1 did not behave so badly on a voyage to Lisbon. He didn’t even test the H2, made between 1737 and 1739, as he suspected a design flaw and immediately began work on the H3. He tinkered with the H3 for over 19 years, but this design was not tested at sea either. In the end it was the H4 of 1759 that was the breakthrough for John Harrison.

Unlike the bulky H1 to H3, the H4 looked like a slightly oversized pocket watch. And it was very accurate and robust. Harrison, now an old man, gave the watch to his son William to take with him on a voyage to Jamaica. The H4 proved to be an excellent timepiece. The H4 had a deviation of only 1 minute and 54.5 seconds (!) during the entire 147-day round trip.

The Board of Longitude doubted the results and demanded that the test be repeated. The relationship between Harrison and the Board of Longitude was becoming increasingly difficult anyway, especially as the Royal Astronomer Nevil Maskelyne, who happened to be a member of the Board, wanted to take the prize himself with his astronomical calculations and lunar tables.

After many years of dispute, recrimination and slander, Harrison was able to collect the last of the prize money in 1773, three years before his death. However, he never received official recognition that he had solved the problem. The Board of Longitude was disbanded in 1828.

From the H1 to the H4: the ship clocks of John Harrison.

It is safe to say that the H4 is probably the most important watch ever made in the history of mankind.

If you want to find out more about the whole longitude problem and also about the players in this historically exciting environment, I highly recommend the book “Longitude” by the American author Dava Sobel. It’s a wonderfully written treatise on the problem, easy to read and yet very instructive.

It took a long time for one of these precise clocks to be used on every ship on the world’s oceans. These clocks, called marine chronometers, were very expensive, so captains continued to use the lunar tables designed by Maskelyne. However, as cheaper chronometers became available, marine chronometers replaced other methods of calculating longitude at sea.

An English watchmaker called John Arnold was largely responsible for the widespread availability of affordable marine chronometers. This brings us to the fourth stop on our journey: London.

Fourth stop: The Strand in London. Now it’s business!

51° 30′ 48″ 0° 6′ 46″

The Strand in London
The Strand in London

John Arnold was born in 1736 in Bodwin, a small town in Cornwall. Like his father, he learned the watchmaker’s trade. His meeting with a Mr William McGuire must have been fateful. It seems that John Arnold repaired his pocket watch so well that he received a loan from his customer, which enabled him to open his watch shop in Devereux Court, The Strand, London.

In 1764, John Arnold presented King George III of England with a watch with a half-quarter repeater and cylinder escapement. All built into a ring only 15mm in diameter! The King was delighted and rewarded him with a handsome sum. When the Russian Tsar asked John Arnold for a similar piece, even offering him twice the amount, Arnold refused. Our watchmaker was working on a completely different story.

In 1770, John Arnold presented his first marine chronometer to the Board of Longitude. This clock was relatively cheap to make compared to other clocks. The Board of Longitude gave John Arnold £200 and an order to improve the clock. The famous Captain James Cook took a marine chronometer with him on his second voyage to the South Seas between 1772 and 1775.

John Arnold experimented tirelessly with his pocket watches, constantly improving their accuracy. Among other things, he patented a new type of compensation balance with a bimetallic balance spring. His pocket watch 1/36 was extensively tested for almost a year and a half by the staff of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The Arnold 1/36 exceeded all expectations in terms of accuracy and John Arnold had the results of the test published in 1779 under the title “An Account kept during Thirteen Months in the Royal Observatory at Greenwich of the Going of a Pocket Chronometer, made on a new Construction”.

In 1780, the Board of Longitude declared that John Arnold’s chronometer was “superior to any watch previously made”. In 1796, John Arnold passed the highly successful business to his son John Roger. The company was renamed Arnold & Son and quickly became the leading supplier of marine chronometers to the Royal Navy.

John Arnold was arguably the most innovative watchmaker of his time. He held patents for a detent escapement, a bimetallic balance and a helical balance-spring, as well as for the “end curves” of the balance-spring. The latter is what we now call the Breguet balance-spring.

In fact, Louis Abraham was not the sole inventor of the tourbillon. It was probably John Arnold who first conceived of the tourbillon. John Arnold died in 1799 before he could develop the idea, but he had been friends with Breguet for years before his death. These two exceptional craftsmen exchanged ideas and discoveries without suspicion. Breguet adopted Arnold’s balance spring and built a working tourbillon, which he patented after John Arnold’s death. Out of respect for John Arnold, Breguet gave his first tourbillon escapement, fitted in one of Arnold’s pocket chronometers, to Arnold’s son, John Roger.

A time ball is nothing more than a large signal ball, visible from afar, attached to the top of a building. Such balls were used in many ports around the world in the 19th century. The ball would be dropped at a set time, allowing sailors to check their ship’s chronometers.

The most famous time ball, which is still used by tourists today, is the one on the roof of the Greenwich Observatory. Every day at exactly 1pm (which is now 2pm Central European Time), the red aluminium ball drops.

And with the drop of the timeball, it is high time to leave England for Switzerland. Our fifth stop is a small town in the High Jura in the canton of Neuchâtel: La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Fifth station: La Chaux-de-Fonds. The Wild West of Switzerland!

47° 6′ 3″ 6° 49′ 30″

La Chaux de Fonds
La Chaux de Fonds

It was broad daylight on 15 January 2002 when two armed men robbed a Rolex employee who was loading gold watch cases into his van outside the Miranda polishing plant in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The robbers kidnapped the employee, the van and the gold. The hostage and the van were later found safe and sound. But the gold, worth half a million francs and destined for Rolex, had disappeared, never to be seen again.

On 6 June of that year, crooks forced a manager of the RSM company in Le Locle to hand over 10 kilos of gold from the vault at gunpoint. Finally, on 19 March 2003, something even more extraordinary happened. A catalogue for an upcoming Antiquorum auction featured a 40,000 francs Ulysse Nardin watch. The problem was that the watch could not officially exist at the time, as it had not yet been released by the manufacturer.

These three criminal acts caused a medium-sized earthquake in the elite and secretive Swiss watchmaking community. In the case of the Ulysse Nardin watch, it was soon discovered that an employee of Ulysse Nardin had stolen the watch along with 20 other watches.

The police launched an investigation, phones were tapped, and at some point the prosecutors became convinced that the three cases were linked. The name of Jean-Pierre Jaquet appeared sooner or later in all three crimes. He was a well-known figure, not only in La Chaux-de-Fonds. He had a background in antiques, was a watchmaker and was, according to many, a brilliant autodidact.

Jean-Pierre Jaquet

He was known as Pharaoh, a king in the world of gold and luxury watches in the 1980s and 1990s. During those 20 years of fame, however, Mr Jaquet also faced several criminal charges for receiving stolen goods, theft and dealing with counterfeit watches.

Since the end of the 1980s, Jean-Pierre Jaquet and his company Jaquet SA have been supplying various companies (including Franck Muller and Girard Perregaux) with selected complications: Moon indicators, split-second hands, power reserves, etc. These are all specialities that are now part and parcel of top-of-the-range watches, but which hardly anyone was interested in at the time. Jaquet was certainly one of the first to recognise the comeback of the mechanical luxury watch.

The police arrived very early on the morning of 7 October 2003. That morning, the area around his factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds resembled the set of an action film. Armed police surrounded the watch factory and prevented workers from entering. Roads were blocked and morning traffic in the busy watchmaking town was diverted. At the same time, the owner of the company, Jean-Pierre Jaquet, was arrested at his home on charges of gang robbery, incitement to robbery, gold theft and counterfeiting watches. It is important to note that the charges related only to Jaquet as an individual; the companies he controlled were not charged.

In 2008, after years of investigation and testimony, Jaquet was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in the largest criminal case in Swiss watchmaking history. The fourteen co-defendants were sentenced to between three and nine years in prison. The trial caused a sensation in Switzerland and became known as the Tick-Tack Connection.

“It’s as if the cardinals in Rome had emptied the Vatican vault.” Nicolas Hayek, former Swatch boss

Nicolas Hayek

The dear reader will be wondering why we are talking about Mr Jaquet and his machinations. It’s quite simple: it was Mr Jaquet who, together with three business partners, including Swatch veteran Ernst Thomke, revived the Arnold & Son brand in 1995. Together with the brand Graham, which also refers to a great English watchmaker, George Graham.

Jaquet and his partners bought the rights to the name and from 2000 the Arnold & Son and Graham watches were produced under the British Masters umbrella (formerly Les Monts SA). Jaquet SA was responsible for the technical inner workings of these pieces.

After Jaquet got into serious trouble with the law in 2003, he was bought out by the co-shareholders of Jaquet SA and British Masters. The amount involved is said to be in the tens of millions. Jaquet SA was renamed La Joux-Perret and sold to the Prothor holding company. This holding company also acquired Arnold & Son in 2010, while the other British Masters brand, Graham, was taken over by co-founder Eric Loth.

Meine alte Arnold & Son Timekeeper aus etwa 2005

By the way, Jean-Pierre Jaquet’s son is called Valérien Jaquet. He is the owner of the watch movement company Concepto SA. It’s a small world. And that brings us from La Chaux-de-Fonds a little further east, to Japan.

Sixth station: Nishitōkyō. The Japanese are coming!

35° 43′ 32″ 139° 32′ 18″

Nishitokyo
Nishitokyo

In the spring of 2012, Toshio Tokura was appointed President and CEO of the Citizen Holding, having been in charge of Citizen’s watch division for many years. Once at the helm of the company, Tokura announced “drastic changes” to Citizen’s watch business. The main points were as follows:

These strategies were a response to the fact that, from the 1990s onwards, Citizen was unable to achieve the same level of growth in the watch sector as its domestic rival Seiko.

According to Tashio Tokura, there were only two options. Either continue to improve Citizen’s brand image through its own ideas, products and PR campaigns. Or go on a shopping spree in Europe, for example in Switzerland. Citizen chose the second option. Unlike Seiko, which established its own premium brand with Grand Seiko relatively early on and has been aggressively trying to conquer the international luxury markets since the 2000s. Citizen chose to buy up existing companies and brands in order to enter the upper segment.

In 2012, during the first year of the new CEO, Citizen bought the holding company Prothor, which owns the movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret, the parts manufacturer Prototec and the watch brand Arnold & Son. The purchase price is said to have been around 65 million Swiss francs.

At the time of the takeover, Citizen officially stated that the transaction had two objectives: to strengthen La Joux-Perret and Arnold & Son, and to provide Citizen with Swiss movements and technology in the high-end segment. With this acquisition, Citizen has sent a clear signal that it is now also active in the luxury segment. At the same time, the Switzerland location and the previous managers had been granted considerable independence. Citizen is investing a lot of money, which the group can certainly afford, but at the same time it is giving La Joux-Perret and Arnold & Son the greatest possible freedom to develop and innovate. Even the Swiss management had not been changed by Citizen.

The deal between the Swiss and Citizen will lead to a much more fruitful and respectful collaboration than has been the case with other takeovers (Eterna sends its regards).

In 2015, La Joux-Perret and Citizen decided to revive the former cult brand Angelus. The same team that looks after Arnold & Son now also looks after Angelus. This means that La Joux-Perret supplies both the cases and the calibres for both brands.

Citizen’s growth strategy did not end with the acquisition of Prothor and the revival of Angelus. In 2016, Citizen acquired the companies Frederic Constant, Alpina and Ateliers deMonaco. The Japanese brand empire now includes seven brands in addition to its own: Campanola, Bulova (since 2008), Arnold & Son, Angelus, Frederique Constant, Alpina and Ateliers deMonaco.

Fewer than 1000 Arnold & Son watches are produced in La Chaux-de-Fonds every year.

Seventh station: at the finish! The watch

We have finally arrived at the destination of our little journey, the Arnold & Son DSTB. The abbreviation “DSTB” stands for “Dial Side True Beat”, which roughly translates to “jumping seconds on the dial”.

The complication

The Arnold & Son DSTB is a rather unusual three-hand watch that displays the hours, minutes and seconds. Thanks to a special complication, the second hand of the watch moves exactly once every second. Without any intermediate steps. What any quartz watch can do for a few Euros is not so easy to achieve with a mechanical watch. On the contrary, the jumping second (also known as the Seconde Morte, Dead Beat Second or True Beat) is a very difficult complication to achieve. It is one of the supreme disciplines of watchmaking, it is complex and requires a great deal of technical effort.

The Jumping Seconds or True Beat complication dates back to the marine chronometers of the 18th century. Since degrees of longitude are expressed in whole seconds, it was thought that a display accurate to the second was the ideal form for reading the seconds and thus determining the degree of longitude. The first clock with jumping seconds was built in 1875 by Richard Towneley as a regulator clock for the Greenwich Observatory. This clock quickly became the model for later pendulum clocks with this complication. In 1776, the Geneva watchmaker Pouzait wrote a fundamental article on the independent second, which could be stopped and started by an additional gear train. This treatise was also the basis for the modern chronograph. But that is another story.

Let’s leave aside the question of the sense or nonsense of a jumping second in modern times. Instead, let’s take a quick look at some physics for watch dummies (of which I am one).

The second hand of a mechanical watch is designed to take several small steps per second. The amount of small steps per second depends on the frequency of the balance wheel. Each half oscillation of the balance wheel briefly releases the secondhand’s gear train. The frequency of a movement is therefore traditionally expressed in half oscillations of the balance wheel per hour, i.e. the amplitude per hour: A/h. The physical unit of frequency is Hertz (Hz). One Hertz means one complete cycle per second, i.e. once back and forth. Hertz numbers therefore always represent the number of complete cycles per second, which is why, by definition, they are exactly half the amount of half oscillations.

To convert A/h into Hz for a modern movement with a frequency of 28,800 A/h we do the following: First, we convert the half oscillations into whole oscillations: we divide the 28,800 by 2 (equals 14,400). This result is then divided by 60 minutes (equals 240). And divide this result again by 60 seconds (equals 4). The 28,800 half oscillations therefore correspond to a frequency of 4 Hertz, i.e. the second hand jumps 8 times per second. In a fast oscillating calibre such as the El Primero from Zenith, with a frequency of 5 Hz (36,000 A/h), the second hand moves at 10 small steps per second, which is also an excellent way of stopping tenths of a second.

But how do you get to a jumping second on the dial? It can’t be difficult, just choose half a Hertz as the frequency of the balance wheel. Then the second hand moves exactly once for every half oscillation of the balance wheel. Each tick and each tock is a whole second. So: What’s the problem?

The problem with this approach is the size of the balance wheel required. Even a balance wheel with a frequency of 1 Hz (i.e. 7,200 A/h) measures around 2.5 cm in diameter! Watchmaker Antoine Martin presented such a watch at Baselworld 2013. His Slowrunner with a 1 Hz calibre probably holds the record for the largest balance wheel in a wristwatch.

But even with this watch, the secondhand still moves in two half-second steps. A frequency of half a Hertz would therefore be required (3,600 A/h), but this would require an even larger balance wheel than that of the previously mentioned Slowrunner. So large, in fact, that there would probably be no room for it in a wristwatch.

Back to the jumping second. In the mid-1950s, two renowned Swiss watchmakers simultaneously came up with the idea of miniaturising the jumping second technology and making it available for wristwatches for the first time. Omega had the Synchrobeat and Rolex had the Tru-Beat. Neither model was really in demand; they were probably marketed as “doctor’s watches” for optimal pulse measurement. Well, anyone finding a Synchrobeat or a Tru-Beat at a flea market today would certainly have their pulse racing. At least if the seller thought they’d be a fake watch with a cheap quartz movement because of the jumping seconds… However, the Omega and Rolex are now sought-after and very rare collector items. There were also movements by A. Schild and Chézard that offered this complication, which are also rare today. There was never really an era of jumping seconds in wristwatches.

Today, this somewhat quirky complication is once again popular with high-end manufacturers. The target group is not doctors or nurses. The aim is to demonstrate watchmaking expertise to the public.

Theoretically, there are several ways to make a second “jump”. Firstly, there is the technique of using a seconds remontoire, a kind of energy store. The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk for example uses a minute remontoire to make the digital minutes jump. There are other methods, including the possibility of coupling an additional escapement to the seconds wheel of the gear train. This was the system used in the Rolex Tru-Beat and Omega. In principle, this method is also used in the Arnold & Son DSTB.

In the Arnold & Son, the balance frequency (4 Hz) of the caliber is translated into a single “seconds beat” for the seconds drive. In simple terms, this is achieved by means of an additional escapement, in which the power is transmitted as precisely as possible to the seconds wheel. A special pallet lever transfers the stored energy to the 60-tooth seconds wheel with a single impulse.

The openwork bridges on the upper part of the dial support the complicated seconds mechanism. A special pallet lever (not to be confused with the escapement lever) engages the seconds wheel. The system stores energy and releases it in the form of a single impulse.

The seconds wheel requires the highest precision, it requires the perfect 60 tooth gear, which is why Arnold & Son use LIGA technology to achieve the microscopic precision required for the gear.

The counterweight of the pallet lever is shaped like an anchor, a nod to Arnold & Son’s great maritime past. The second hand has an open-worked tip that indicates the seconds above a sapphire ring mounted on three supports. The entire construction of the seconds hand appears light, almost floating above the beautiful blue plate.

The case

The Arnold & Son DSTB is available in precious metal or steel. My model is the steel version with a blue plate, limited to 250 pieces. The case is elaborately crafted and has a two-tier design, with a slightly tapered case back.

Despite its impressive diameter of 43.5 mm, the Arnold & Son DSTB fits perfectly on the wrist. This is also thanks to the short lugs, which are very tapered for an Arnold & Son. The bezel is kept narrow to give the sub-dials plenty of room. The case is polished to a mirror finish and the sapphire crystal caseback reveals the in-house automatic movement. The crown is easy to grip and beautifully finished, with a relief of the Arnold & Son brand logo on the side of the crown.

The dial

The DSTB does not have a dial in the traditional sense. Rather, there are three “dials”. Firstly, there is a large plate in a beautiful blue (PVD coated). From a structural point of view, this plate is the back of the movement plate, visible to the observer, and carries all the display and complication elements to the outside. It has a fine but striking spiral grind, the centre of which is located in the small hour and minute dial.

The fine sapphire crystal ring with the seconds display (dots and numbers) floats freely and airily above the blue “sea” of the plate. Finally, at five o’clock on the dial, the small silver-white lacquered dial is held in place by three small screws. Beautiful blued hands with pierced tips - like the seconds hand - indicate the hours and minutes. A finely drawn railway minute track (chemin de fer) helps to ensure precise legibility and also forms the dividing line between the sub-dial and the main dial.

The movement

Arnold & Son is what you would definitely call a manufactory. La Joux-Perret makes the right caliber for every model. Here in the DSTB it is the A&S 6003, a 4 Hz calibre with a proud diameter of 38 mm. The oscillating weight in my version is made of grey steel and decorated with a diamond-shaped motif. Precious metal models have golden rotors.

The movement is made up of 229 parts. And it is fair to say that the finish is really top class. Not at the level of A. Lange & Söhne, of course, but at least on a par with Jaeger-LeCoultre, Glashütte Original and other brands in this segment.

Sunburst decoration on the crown wheel, colimaçon (spiral grind) on the ratchet wheel, perlage and Côtes de Genève. Everything is very fine and precise. In particular, the beveling is really outstanding in my opinion. The screws with their polished and beveled heads are also very nice. A movement with a lot of refinement and attention to detail, which lives up to Arnold & Son’s self-image of producing high quality watchmaking. The caliber is tested by Arnold & Son in five positions. I have never had any complaints about the accuracy.

Final remarks

The Arnold & Son DSTB is a luxury watch with a twist. With its quirky looking complication, the watch not only exudes a certain charm, but also demonstrates a high level of design finesse. In my opinion, the finish, look and feel are impeccable. But of course the “British Breguet” is not a companion for every conceivable everyday situation. Robustness and sportiness were not at the forefront of the specifications. But it still has something of the character of a tool watch.

The Arnold & Son playfully tells the eventful story of the conquest of the seas by human ingenuity. Its classic design elements are reminiscent of 17th-century watchmaking, while its technical features are entirely contemporary. The visible bridges, the sapphire crystal ring and the beautiful blue plate give it a modern lightness and great three-dimensionality. But the highlight of the Arnold & Son DSTB is the jumping seconds hand. Every time you look at the watch, your eyes will be drawn to it, moving in perfectly even increments across the transparent sapphire crystal. After each step, it waits, pauses for a moment and then moves on to the next distance.

Striding instead of gliding.

There is something hypnotic, something soothing about this spectacle. If this were coming from a quartz watch, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. Here, on the other hand — what was the opening question of this review again: why do I wear a wristwatch?

Write a comment

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get occasional updates from Three-Quarter Plate delivered right to your inbox. No spam ever.