Last year Breitling got a new owner in Kuwait and last week they opened their first flagship store at Al Hamra Tower. I’ve got a personal attachment to the brand since I had one in high school and later got another one after graduating from university. The new store is located right next to Panerai on the ground floor.
Last week when I passed by the new revamped Peacock restaurant at Radisson Blu I also got a tour of the hotel. I didn’t check out the rooms since they didn’t interest me but I did check out the lobby area and the new Sky Lounge.
The lobby area is a lot brighter than before with a lot more daylight coming in and a brighter color palette. They’ve removed their famous floating 4-ton marble sphere from the entrance and moved it outside. They also expanded the little cafe that used to be there and they kept Peacock in the same location with just the entrance now moved to the main side.
The Sky Lounge is a new addition to the hotel that didn’t exist before. It was still under heavy construction when I passed by but I found the rendering above of how it will eventually look like. The Sky Lounge has a panoramic view of the sea and they want it to be the “it” place to hangout at night. Once the sun sets the whole place dims down and mood lights come on. They’ll have a DJ playing house music and they’ll also have a bar that serves non-alcoholic cocktails. They want the place to be a chill-out lounge and I’m personally curious to see how that works out.
I was in Beirut over the weekend and on this trip I ended up staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown Beirut. The hotel is located in what I think is one of the nicest looking towers in Beirut, right in front of the very popular Zaituna Bay and so I was really looking forward to staying there.
Right from the moment I stepped out of my rental I knew I was going to be enjoying my stay at the hotel. The customer service at the hotel was just better then any other I had previously stayed in before and I’ve stayed at many. The feeling I kept getting is that every single employee wanted to help make your stay better, and by every single employee I don’t mean just the reception staff or managers, I mean everyone from the valet guys, to the housekeepers to the waiters. I think its the words they use but you just get this feeling that you can ask them for whatever you want and they’d love to do it and that made me super comfortable in asking them for stuff which I tend not to do.
Other than the excellent service my room was also very comfortable. I had overpacked on this trip but there was more than enough closest space and drawers to accomodate all my stuff. The room wasn’t that big but the bathroom was with a large sink area, tub, shower room, toilet room and a makeup table. The room had a balcony that was big enough to fit a table and two chairs and finally there was free wifi in the room and the whole hotel. My favorite part of the hotel though would have to be the roof. During the day the roof is a cool place to swim and tan but at night it’s an open air lounge overlooking the Mediterranean sea and Beirut.
I do have two minor complaints though. The first issue the hotel really can’t do much about but the view from my room could have been better if there wasn’t a large sand lot right outside. I live in Kuwait so I would rather not see sand lots when I travel. Even though the hotel is right in front of Zaituna Bay, my room was more on the side and I could only see the marina if I was on the balcony looking left which was disappointing. The other issue I had was with their breakfast. It’s not a breakfast buffet and one of the things I look forward to the most in hotels is their breakfast buffets. At the Four Seasons they have a dried fruit, fresh fruit and cereal buffet but if you want any hot dishes you have to order them. The advantage obviously is your breakfast is made for you and so is fresh, but the disadvantage is it takes time to make and you also can’t just fill up your plate with whatever looks good like you would do at a regular buffet.
In the end though I had a really good time at the hotel. I generally don’t tend to spend much time at hotels but on this trip I was having all my friends come over so we could just chill out on the roof. The incredibly friendly service and the lounge on the roof made me really love my stay. I’d most likely stay there again once I’m done reviewing other hotels in Beirut.
Early in the month I was sent to Basel World, the largest watch expo in the world by Trafalgar so that I could cover the event for my blog. I was there for 3 days and I think by the last day I had managed to check out the whole expo since it was just so ridiculously huge. I managed to get access to a few brands I wanted to see except for two which were Rolex and Breitling. Rolex had the new anniversary edition Daytona I wanted to check out while Breitling had the new Emergency. If you don’t have access to a brand you basically only get to check out their displays outside their booth. With access you get taken inside the booth where you get to see the watches in person. Below are my favorite watches from the expo.
A few months back I was sitting with the owner of Tag Heur and Patek Philippe in Kuwait and we were discussing watches when he asked me if I would be interested to cover Basel World for my blog. Basel World is the worlds largest watch expo which takes place every year and this year was going to be a bit more special since it would be the first Basel World held in the newly renovated exhibition building. I was also told I could cover any watch brand and not just their own brands so here I am at Basel World.
This is easily the largest expo I have ever been to. The exhibition building is huge and the booths, they’re not even booths they’re gigantic structures, like mini buildings inside a bigger building. I am not sure my pictures below do justice to the place since you really have to be here to see how huge these booths are. The exhibition building is three floors and each floor has a super high ceiling with super high brand booths occupying a ridiculous amount of space. I spent all day yesterday just walking around quickly trying to at least see everything quickly and I thought I had until after I left I was checking the Basel World App on my phone and I realized I missed two exhibition halls completely.
To be able to enter the booths you need to be invited in (like if you’re a watch collector or a VIP) or you need to be one of their dealers. Since I am in good contact with the dealers in Kuwait I am getting access to most of the brands I want to see except for a couple. Below is the list, if you can help get me access to the ones I am having trouble with let me know.
Hublot – Have access
Tag Heur – Have access
Patek Philippe – Have access
Chopard – Have access
Rolex – Working on access
Brietling – Working on access Casio – No access (help needed)
Harry Winston – Have access
Omega – Working on access Citizen – No access (help needed)
The Forum’s For Sale section always has interesting items for sale and usually for very good deals. Right now someone is selling the limited Kuwait edition Panerai with the Al Hamra engraving on the back for what could be a good price. If you’re interested you can check it out [Here]
The first dedicated Panerai Boutique is opening in Al Hamra next month and on that occasion Panerai have released a special edition watch that features an engraving of Al Hamra Tower on the back along with the word “Kuwait”. The Kuwait edition Panerai will be limited to just 80 pieces and they’re pretty much selling out as soon as they arrive. The one I spotted at the Panerai dealer in Salhiya (Behbehani luxury store) was already reserved for a customer. I don’t post prices of watches online but I thought the asking price on this model was fairly reasonable for a limited edition PAM.
For my last post on my trip to Audemars Piguet I’m going to take you inside their facilities and show you their environment and some of the people behind the watches. By looking at some of the pictures you could easily mistake it for a scientific laboratory since all the watchmakers wear white coats and majority of them are looking through magnifiers and even microscopes.
For some parts of the tour we were required to enter a sterilized room, put on coats and even wear plastic bags over our shoes so that we wouldn’t bring any external contamination inside their sterile work spaces. The watchmakers are all very talented and experienced craftsman and not just random people sitting at an assembly line slapping parts together. There is no assembly line, each watch is hand built and decorated by professionals.
A lot of time goes into every watch and into every single part that is inside the watch. To give you an idea of how extreme their craftsmanship is we spotted one guy working on a part so small I couldn’t take a picture of it. It was part literally the size of a pixel and it turned out it was an extremely tiny screw and he was busy polishing it. Imagine a part so tiny you could barely see it and yet he was polishing it. Keep in mind that’s also a part no one other than him would probably every see again since it will be hidden inside the watch. That’s extreme detailing and really lets you appreciate the amount of work and crafting that goes into every watch.
Video showing how the Royal Oak face dial is made. [YouTube]
We were mostly allowed to take pictures of whatever we wanted except for the area where they make the carbon forged watch cases. They’re the only watchmaker that makes carbon forged watches and I guess they didn’t want us snapping shots of secretive information like oven temperatures or specific machinery. But you can watch a video of the process on YouTube if you’re interested [Here]
After visiting the main AP building the following day we headed to their other division called Renaud & Papi located around 2 hours from Geneva by car. That’s where majority of their extremely complicated movements get developed and built. Those guys are ridiculously smart and talented which is why they’re considered the best in the industry and work on complicated movements for other high end brands like Richard Mille and Harry Winstone. I saw one girl who was working on a Tourbillon using a microscope and I still don’t understand how they can do it. The Tourbillon is smaller than a 1 fils coin and is a very complicated movement to build with lots of different parts and layers that go into making it and here she was building it using just tiny tweezers and very, very steady hands. Amazing talent.
I spotted two Richard Mille watches while we were there that were being built, the Jackie Chan Dragon edition which costs over a million bucks and my favorite the skull watch which costs around $700,000. I love it because the watch has a huge skull in the middle with a Tourbillon hidden in the mouth and also because it costs seven hundred freakin’ thousand dollars. That’s so in your face I have billions and billions of dollars that I can afford to buy a watch with a skull head inside that costs nearly a million bucks so I could wear it with my cool ripped jeans and nike sneakers on weekends. Unfair and unbalanced world? Most likely, but that doesn’t bother me.
One last thing I need to mention. When we were done with the tour of their facilities we were taken into this large conference room with cabinets stretching from one side to the other and filled with rows and rows of all their watches. We got to check them all out and try them on and my favorite from the bunch has to be the new Sebastien Buemi watch (pictured above). We were also given a sneak peek at the new Schumacher watch thats going to launch at the end of the year but I’m not allowed to describe it or say anything about it. Maybe I can mention one tidbit and say that it’s going to be a 44mm but that’s all I can say.
It was a great trip and it was something that was on my things to do before I die list so I now get to cross it off. I’m really grateful to AP for inviting me on this trip. All the AP employees and watchmakers were very profesional and patient with us. Their work environment is a very tranquil and peaceful place and we were definitely not a quiet group yet they were all very friendly and focused even though at some points I had my camera very rudely close to their heads trying to get my shots. Great people, beautiful country and a wonderful experience.
I have a lot of information to share about my trip to Audemars Piguet and I’m going to try and keep it interesting and informative since I know not everyone is into watches like I am.
First just a bit of history on how that Swiss valley where AP is located became such a hotspot for all the watchmakers. The Audemars Piguet facilities are located in Vallée de Joux which is considered to be “the heart of Swiss watchmaking”. In the early 1800’s a watchmaker moved into the valley and started producing watches and when his business started booming he needed to hire help. The valley was full of farmers who spent the summers busy outdoors farming but the winters indoor not doing much. So, the farmers got into watchmaking since the basic tools to get started didn’t cost much and even their children started learning and working with watches at a young age. In other parts of Switzerland farmers were making music boxes during the winter months but they were making watches.
Once we arrived to Vallée de Joux which is just over an hour drive from Geneva, we were taken to the AP Restoration Department followed by the Museum. The restoration department is where they work to restore old watches back to working condition while trying to preserve all their original parts. A lot of the watch parts aren’t available anymore so if anything is missing or needs replacing not only do they have to hand make the parts but they always try to remake them using the same technique they were originally made with. While we were there we were lucky that the head of the department was working on a vintage pocket watch that contained a Grand Complication movement dating back to 1899 (pictured above). A simple watch movement is a watch that indicates the hours, minutes and seconds. On the other hand a calendar is a complicated movement, a moon phase, an alarm, a minute repeater (tells time using chimes) are all complicated movements. A Grand Complication is a movement that contains a whole bunch of complicated movements all together in one watch. I’ll try to list everything the watch above does so here it goes: It has clock watch with grand and small strike, minute-repeater, split seconds chronograph with minutes counter, alarm, jumping seconds, flying seconds and perpetual calendar. Yeah that’s a lot of things and this is a watch that was created back in 1899. It’s currently valued at around 3 million Euros.
After leaving the restoration department we headed to the museum. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside but I did manage to take the one below of a poster that I saw hanging on the wall (I want it). The museum is housed in the original AP building from the late 1800’s. Although it’s full of interesting pieces, this was probably the most boring part of the whole trip for me because I couldn’t wait to get out and head over to their main production facility. If anyone knows where I can find the Ali with Arnold poster please let me know.
In a few hours I’m heading to Geneva courtesy of the watchmaker Audemars Piguet. The local dealer is sending some of their customers to the main Audemars Piguet headquarters in Switzerland and I was lucky enough to be invited as well. I’m a huge AP fan and I’ve always wanted to visit the Vallée de Joux area (pictured above) where all the prestigious watchmakers are located so this trip should turn out to be amazing.
Once I get there I’ll be getting a local sim card so I could continue to post pictures on Instagram whenever I find anything interesting. As usual you could follow me by adding me on instagram, my username is mark248am or you can check out my pictures with your web browser by clicking [Here]
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