With signs of recovery everywhere, following a dismal economic slowdown, brands are – understandably – playing it safe when it comes to launches.
At the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) and Baselworld earlier this year, brands largely unveiled pieces designed to sell. Think updated versions of tried-and-tested icons, timepieces with functional complications, value-added features such as chronometer certiﬁcation or antimagnetism, lower-priced ranges, or simply blue-dialled watches (a popular colour with many buyers). While a brand can make a statement in many ways, some (we are glad to say) do it the good ol’ old-fashioned way – with timepieces that impress with their mechanical prowess, like A. Lange & Sohne’s one-of-akind Triple Split. Here is a selection of our highlights of 2018.
Right On Track
A. LANGE & SOHNE Triple Split (opposite); 1815 Chronograph
Many of its watches might look conservative but, technically, A. Lange & Sohne is as forward-looking as they come. Easily one of the standout releases at a time when most brands are choosing to play it safe, the brand’s blockbuster of the year is the Triple Split – a split-seconds chronograph that allows for comparative time measurements of up to 12 hours. Housed in a white gold case 43.2mm across and 15.7mm thick, the Triple Split is the only mechanical chronograph of its kind. The Triple Split’s closest competitor? The brand’s own Double Split, a 2004 debut that can measure comparative timings of up to 30 minutes (a feat that no other brand has yet to equal).
For those who prefer simpler chronographs meant for more frequent wear, the new 1815 Chronographs are handsome choices. Launched in white gold with a black dial last year, the 2018 versions come in 39.5mm pink gold cases, with a black or silver dial.
A pulsometer – a scale originally designed for doctors to calculate a patient’s pulse easily – gives this hand-wound ﬂyback chronograph a dose of vintage charm.
Marking A Milestone
AUDEMARS PIGUET Royal Oak Offshore Self winding Chronograph
Things move so quickly these digitally driven days. Even before the SIHH rolled around in January, much had already been said about the 25th anniversary of Audemars Piguet’s sporty model, the Royal Oak Off shore.
Having earlier unveiled commemorative pieces such as the reissue of the original 1993 Royal Oak Off shore and the Royal Oak Off shore Tourbillon Chronograph, the brand chose to focus on models with new colours and ﬁnishes at SIHH.
A like-it-or-hate-it highlight among the new additions to the Royal Oak Off shore catalogue is the Royal Oak Off shore Self winding Chronograph, with a deep-green ceramic bezel and beige dial, complete with camouﬂage rubber strap. We’re fans of the way the beige dial and inner bezel contrast with the deep green (AP’s official term for the shade is “khaki”) of the brushed ceramic bezel, pushers and screw-locked crown.
And, if you’re among those who have no love for the camo strap, you might feel more at ease knowing that the 44mm steel watch comes with an additional khaki (deep green) rubber strap.
Fuelled By Function
BAUME & MERCIER Clifton Baumatic
In a press release last year, Baume & Mercier proudly declared that it was “positioned as closely as possible to the reality of the market”. This year, the brand demonstrates that this philosophy does not merely translate to affordable luxury, but also to real innovations that are relevant to a wider swathe of buyers.
For less than $5,000, the Clifton Baumatic offers an impressive number of features. Developed with parent company Richemont Group’s R&D team and the group’s movement-maker Val Fleurier, the Baumatic has an exclusive movement that offers a solid ﬁ ve-day power reserve, as well as anti-magnetism thanks to components like a silicon hairspring.
Baume & Mercier is the ﬁrst brand in the Richemont Group to offer silicon hair springs, and the Baumatic is one of its ﬁrst watches to do so.
There are different variants of this steel timepiece but, to us, the obvious pick is this white-dialled version. Distinguished by a porcelain-like white dial with crosshairs, it is also a COSC-certiﬁed chronometer.
BLANCPAIN Villeret Tourbillon Volant Heure Sautante Minute Retrograde
In 1989, Blancpain became the ﬁrst brand to present a ﬂying tourbillon – a tourbillon without an upper bridge, so it looks like it’s freely suspended – in a wristwatch. At Baselworld 2018, it again presented a ﬂying tourbillon in what is one of our favourite novelties of the year – the Villeret Tourbillon Volant Heure Sautante Minute Retrograde, which comes in a 42mm red gold or platinum case. Its long French name explains its combination of features: a ﬂying tourbillon, jumping hour and retrograde minutes.
This is the ﬁrst time that Blancpain is using either the jumping hour or retrograde minutes, and we enjoy the way these two unusual features have been laid out together in a way that ensures easy readability.
The white grand feu enamel dial provides a backdrop that’s luxuriously glossy yet undistracting – perfectly pairing with the lightness of the ﬂying tourbillon, which is mounted on a clear sapphire disc instead of on a lower bridge.
BREGUET Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367
In haute horlogerie, tourbillon-and-time-only watches are not uncommon, and with such timepieces, the tourbillon is typically positioned at a cutout at six o’clock.
Breguet’s Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat, an ultra-thin tourbillon model, has skewed that formula to winning effect since it was introduced in 2013. The chapter ring (the circle comprising the hour numerals and minute markers) is slightly off -centre, and this is balanced by a tourbillon that is positioned at ﬁve o’clock and held in place by a hand-bevelled bridge. It’s a look that’s classical yet just offbeat enough to be interesting.
This year’s update, the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367 (available either in rose gold or platinum), features a restrained, yet warm, white grand feu enamel dial that lets the dial details and tourbillon stand out even more.
One of the skinniest automatic tourbillon watches on the market today, it has an impressive thickness of just 7.45mm, while still possessing a reassuring solidity.
Building A Mystery
CARTIER Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Double Tourbillon
A gain affirming how many brands have been moving away from super-complicated, pricier pieces in recent years, Cartier is focusing heavily on its revamped, mid-range Santos line for 2018 (and indeed, pieces from the collection are featured elsewhere in this supplement).
However, alongside this bread-and-butter line, Cartier also unveiled several creations this year that demonstrate it is still tops when it comes to whimsical statements.
The Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon and the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Day & Night are its latest novelties to feature a mechanism inspired by the house’s mystery clocks from the early 20th century. Suspended on transparent discs driven by hidden gears, mechanisms such as the hands appear to be ﬂoating freely in mid-air.
An open-worked version of a timepiece ﬁrst launched in 2013, the Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon features a ﬂying tourbillon at six o’clock – this entire escapement rotates on its own axis every minute and makes a revolution around the space every ﬁve minutes.
FRANCK MULLER Vanguard Yachting Gravity Skeleton
With its out sized tourbillon – its cage is a relatively massive 21.2mm wide – and architectural, elliptical bridges, the Franck Muller Vanguard Gravity is a timepiece that’s hard to miss. The next step in the evolution of this model is the Gravity Skeleton, which gives the statement timepiece a welcome airiness that helps to reduce its sense of heft. Holding much of the manually wound movement in place – and in striking fashion – are the watch’s elliptical X-shaped bridges, which are precisely milled from single blocks of aluminium.
One of the line’s latest iterations, the Vanguard Yachting Gravity Skeleton, takes things a step further with nautical-inspired details, such as a turbine-shaped tourbillon cage in blue anodised aluminium. Housed in a white gold case measuring a sizeable 53.7mm (length) by 44mm (width) by 12.65mm (thickness), the watch is powered by an in-house manually wound movement with a ﬁve-day power reserve – enough to last through those short trips out to sea.
Sounds Like Success
GIRARD-PERREGAUX Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon
Since bringing back its sporty Laureato with a vengeance – and in a multitude of iterations – last year, Girard-Perregaux continues to strengthen this family.
This year sees the addition of new chronograph versions, as well as ceramic-encased ones. But in terms of technical excellence, one novelty made more noise than the rest, literally. To ensure that its chiming was loud enough to, as the watch’s press information states, “accompany music-loving aesthetes...in today’s often very noisy big cities”, the Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon is housed in a case made of titanium, a low-density metal that transmits sound more effectively, instead of absorbing it.
Additionally, the hammer and gongs, usually found at the back of a movement, have been moved to the front to further boost sound transmission and prevent the wearer’s wrist from deadening the chiming. Offering further dynamic distraction from urban life is the signature Girard-Perregaux tri-axial tourbillon, with its constant rotation on three axes at varying speeds.
Power In Control
GREUBEL FORSEY Differentiel d’Egalite
A nother year, another technical – and impeccably ﬁnished – timepiece by Greubel Forsey. The Differentiel d’Egalite is a time-only watch that puts the focus squarely on Greubel Forsey’s constant-force mechanism.
The goal behind all constant-force mechanisms is to ensure that energy transfer from the main spring remains constant, even as the latter winds down.
First announced by the brand 10 years ago and having been reﬁned since, Greubel Forsey’s version sees the main spring winding a secondary spring, which in turn transmits energy evenly to the watch regulator.
Thanks to a large dial cutout, you can get a glimpse of the workings of the mechanism, as well as elements such as the mirror-polished balance wheel bridge.
The 44mm white gold watch is also the ﬁrst by the brand to feature dead-beat seconds (which is when the seconds hand moves in one-second jumps instead of in a continuous motion), which can be stopped and reset so the time can be set accurately.
Form And Substance
HERMES Arceau Chrono Titane
Presenting its novelties at SIHH instead of Baselworld for the ﬁrst time this year, Hermes chose to highlight its design credentials. Many of the French luxury house’s new watches stood out with their unusual aesthetics – consider, for instance, the rounded square case of the Carre H or the vibrantly coloured champleve lacquer dials of the Arceau Casaque models.
While the brand has chosen to take a break from its playful complications (such as last year’s Slim d’Hermes L’Heure Impatiente, which chimes at the end of a one-hour countdown) to focus on design this year, its new releases include a timepiece with one of the world’s most popular complications – the chronograph. Housed in a 41mm titanium case, the Arceau Chrono Titane is one of the sportiest models in the equestrian-inspired Arceau family yet. Familiar touches – such as its riding stirrup-like, asymmetric lugs, and italicised Breguet numerals – meet rugged details such as a textured black dial. The watch is powered by an automatic movement created for Hermes by its movement maker, Vaucher, so, make no mistake: This watch deﬁnitely goes beyond the surface.
IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Edition ‘150 Years’
Anybody with the vaguest interest in IWC will know that the Schaffhausen manufacture is marking its 150th year with a wide range of novelties. As IWC associate director of product development Walter Volpers told us at SIHH: “You want to pack 150 years of history into one collection, and you cannot do that with only one product line.” While much attention has been showered on the Tribute to Pallweber watch and its jumping time-display discs, the 29-piece Jubilee range has a lot more to offer. For one thing, several pieces feature new combinations of features.
For the ﬁrst time, a tourbillon gives additional horological glamour to the perpetual calendar designed by IWC master watchmaker Kurt Klaus. In designing the 45mm red gold Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Edition “150 Years”, the design ers made space for the tourbillon by moving the moonphase display from 12 o’clock and integrating it within the month subdial at six o’clock. And in the Big Pilot’s Big Date Edition “150 Years”, a large date is used for the ﬁrst time in IWC pilot’s watches, boosting utility without compromising on legibility.
Dive Right In
JAEGER-LECOULTRE Polaris Memovox
To create a new, sporty pillar within its catalogue, Jaeger-LeCoultre has dived half a century back into its history.
This year, it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Memovox Polaris, a dive watch with an alarm function that enables the (presumably diving) wearer to know when it’s time to resurface.
The new Polaris collection comprises ﬁve models: a time-only automatic, a date-and-time model, a world-timer chronograph, a chronograph, and a Memovox alarm version that hews most closely to the collection’s muse.
Made in a limited run of 1,000, the Polaris Memovox bears distinctive features that recall the 1968 original, including its triple-crown design, off -white Superluminova hour markers and hands, and trapezoidal indexes combined with four Arabic numerals.
If you’re planning to use this 42mm steel watch to wake you in the morning, we recommend having a back-up alarm if you’re a heavy sleeper. Its deep ring is relatively loud but continues for just 15 seconds; this is on a par with other mechanical alarm watches, but possibly too brief to rouse one from deep slumber.
Scaling New Heights
MONTBLANC 1858 Geosphere
In the competitive ﬁne-watch industry, Montblanc has been setting itself apart by focusing on its “value for money” proposition. This year, it reinforces this message with novelties such as the 1858 Geosphere, a dual-time steel watch that also (very approximately) reﬂects world time with a pair of rotating “globes” representing the Northern and Southern hemispheres. It’s an unusual feature adapted – in a simpler, but still attractive way – from much pricier, previous models such as the Tourbillon Cylindrique Geospheres. The 1858 Geosphere is priced at $8,300, while its highend inspirations have price tags of above $400,000.
This year also sees Montblanc revamping – to positive effect – its classic Star Legacy and sporty Timewalker collections. The Star Legacy Chronograph Rieussec is the highlight of the new and improved Star Legacy collection. With a very reasonable asking price of $11,900, the steel timepiece features Montblanc’s signature chronograph display, which tracks elapsed time via two rotating discs – a tribute to the 1821 inking chronograph of 19th-century French watchmaker Nicolas Rieussec.
PANERAI Lo Scienziato Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Titanio
Panerai is probably among the last brands that would come to mind when one contemplates ultra-thin watches – but several of its SIHH launches show that the brand is looking to lose some of the bulk that has long been its Sylvester Stallone-approved calling card. Firstly, one of the product families the brand is focusing on this year is the Luminor Due, which is a slimmed down (although still not skinny by any means) version of the Luminor 1950 model. Secondly, Panerai did not simply release new Luminor Due models such as a 45mm edition with small seconds and a date display – it also unveiled a handful of 38mm Luminor Due watches, its smallest and slimmest designs yet.
Of course, there were still big and bold releases to please long-time Paneristis. Even so, reduction was executed in other, although less immediately obvious, ways: Despite measuring a sizeable 47mm in diameter, the Lo Scienziato Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Titanio feels a whole lot lighter than it looks. This is thanks to its hollow titanium case, which is made from powdered titanium using direct metal laser sintering, a 3-D printing process.
PARMIGIANI Kalpa Chronor
Watch snobs can have many bugbears – some are irked by the presence of a date window, while some ﬁnd it intolerable when a minute hand is not long enough to reach the minute track.
But one of the biggest negatives is when a movement does not exactly ﬁt its case. Such purists will be hard-pressed to ﬁnd fault with Parmigiani’s trio of additions to its tonneau-shaped Kalpa family, created to mark the 20th anniversary of the Calibre PF 110 – a tonneau-shaped manually wound movement created by brand founder Michel Parmigiani.
The collection’s most brilliant model – literally speaking – is the Kalpa Chronor, which features a rose gold case with a solid-gold movement to match. Perfectly shaped to ﬁt its case, the Kalpa Chronor’s highly decorated Calibre PF 365 is the world’s ﬁrst automatic, integrated chronograph movement crafted almost wholly from solid gold (its moving parts are still crafted from steel, because gold would be too soft).
The watch is also no slouch from the front, with a sporty, reﬁned look, courtesy of details such as a bi-level black dial with guilloche accents, and teardrop-shaped lugs.
Flat Out Awesome
PIAGET Altiplano Ultimate Concept
The ultra-thin race has been a close one fought among various brands over the years, but there is no doubt that Piaget dominated the slender-timepiece space this year. A stunning 2mm in thickness (that’s thinner than a $1 coin), the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is the world’s thinnest watch, with proportions that make its closest competition, the 3.6 mm-thick Master Ultra-Thin Squelette by Jaeger-LeCoultre, seem practically obese. The skinniness of Piaget’s creation was made possible by shaving any excess from every single component, resulting in a two-layer construction and ﬁve new patented innovations.
As fans wait for the features in the Ultimate Concept to trickle down into Piaget’s production timepieces, the brand continues to update its ultra-thin retail catalogue: The Altiplano Ultimate 910P is the automatic version of the hand-wound 900P. Housed in a 4.3mm-thick case of white or pink gold, the movement of the 910P is largely based on that of its predecessor – whereby the mainplate doubles as the caseback, and so on – with the addition of a peripheral oscillating weight made from solid gold.
RICHARD MILLE RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough
In 2012, Richard Mille created its ﬁrst watch for Argentinian polo pro Pablo Mac Donough. The RM 053 Tourbillon Polo – Pablo Mac Donough was housed in a titanium carbide, armour-like case, with the time display visible only through two angled windows. It could stand up to the impact of a ﬂying ball or swinging mallet. The second time round, brand founder Richard Mille upped the ante, challenging his team to create a watch with a visible movement, but still tough enough to withstand great impact.
Dressed up with baby-blue accents, the new RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough achieves this aim, thanks to features found in its movement and watch glass. Inspired by architecture, the tourbillon movement is held in place with a shock-absorbing cable suspension system, much like in an actual suspension bridge. Protecting without concealing the movement is an automotive-inspired laminated glass – a hardy “sandwich” comprising two sapphire glass sheets separated by a thin polyvinyl ﬁlm. In pendulum impact testing, it could withstand the thrust of a metal spike attached to a 4.5kg weight. Mission accomplished.
Full Speed Ahead
ROGER DUBUIS Excalibur Spider Pirelli Single Flying Tourbillon (opposite); Excalibur Aventador S Blue
Roger Dubuis shares many common points with motor sports, said Dorothee Henrio, international marketing director of the brand, at SIHH 2018. “It’s a very daring world, there’s a lot of investment in research and development, and they’re passionate about mechanics.” This year, the brand reinforces its partnerships with Lamborghini Squadra Corse – the marque’s motor-sport division – and tyre specialist Pirelli.
The Excalibur Aventador S, Roger Dubuis’ collaborative model with Lamborghini, now comes in more colours and ﬁnishes, including sporty hues like blue or yellow. The 45mm watch is powered by the Lamborghini-ex-clusive Calibre RD103SQ, which features Roger Dubuis’ double inclined balance wheels, as well as X-shaped strut bars and bridges – elements inspired by an Aventador S engine.
Roger Dubuis is also revving up its collaborative series with Pirelli: The Excalibur Spider Pirelli Single Flying Tourbillon was launched in May at the Run to Monaco, a luxury driving experience culminating in a weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix. Like its predecessors, the watch comes with straps with rubber inlays made from certiﬁed Pirelli race-winning tyres, but what sets the black DLC-coated titanium timepiece apart is a quick-release system that lets owners switch straps easily. The 28-piece boutique-exclusive edition comes with seven additional straps in Pirelli colours.
Into High Gear
TAG HEUER Carrera ‘Tete de Vipere’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer
Tag Heuer celebrates the 55th anniversary of the Carrera this year with a new version of its Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer, a cool-looking sporty model that stands out with two major new features: a 45mm midnight-blue ceramic case and bezel, as well as an uncommon chronometer certiﬁ cation.
The accuracy and reliability of the Carrera “Tete de Vipere” Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer – which is powered by Tag Heuer’s Heuer-02T automatic tourbillon chronograph movement – is certiﬁed by the Besancon Observatory in France.
The organisation’s certiﬁcation mark is the Tete de Vipere, or viper’s head. Since it was relaunched in 2006, this chronometer certiﬁcate has been awarded to just 500 watches.
To obtain it, a fully assembled watch has to pass 16 days of testing, in ﬁve positions and three temperatures.
This unusual certiﬁcate adds further value to a watch that is already known for being one of the most affordable tourbillon timepieces on the market – this edition will retail for 19,900 Swiss francs (S$27,000).
ULYSSE NARDIN Freak Vision
When we sat down with recently minted Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrick Pruniaux during SIHH, he shared that one of his key tasks was to make the brand’s “disruptive” technologies more accessible to a bigger audience. That was one of the reasons driving the creation of the Freak Vision – the brand’s latest version of its signature hand-less and crown-less watch model, Freak.
The Freak Vision incorporates a few of the innovations that were unveiled in the Ulysse Nardin Inno Vision 2 concept watch last year. These include an ultra-light silicon balance wheel with nickel mass elements and stabilising silicon micro-blades, as well as the efficient Grinder automatic-winding system. Powering the ﬁrst automatic Freak watch in production, Grinder comprises a rotor linked to a frame with four arms – a design that helps it to convert even the smallest wrist movements into energy. While the Freak Vision is housed in a platinum case and costs 95,000 Swiss francs (S$130,000), Ulysse Nardin also recently released the titanium-cased, hand-wound Freak Out, retailing for 48,000 Swiss francs. Yup, it’s a good time to freak out.
VACHERON CONSTANTIN Fiftysix Day-Date
The world’s oldest continuously operating watch company makes a clear play for the younger set this year, introducing its most affordable timepiece yet.
The new Fiftysix “retro-contemporary” collec-tion has a starting price of $16,900 (for the steel time and-date model), around half the price of some of its previous “entry-level” pieces.
A “modern interpretation” of the reference 7063 model introduced in 1956 (hence the collection’s name), the Fiftysix series comprises three models – automatic with date; day-date; and complete calendar – in pink gold or steel. What sets the pieces apart are aesthetic details such as its alternating Arabic numerals and indexes, and a sector-style dial with its two-tone ﬁnish. Aside from this new collection, Vacheron Constantin also introduced novelties that will please its longtime collectors. New Traditionnelle pieces – a time-only watch with a tourbillon, and a complete calendar – made their debut in a pink gold or platinum case; while 18th-century hot air balloon ﬂights inspired a charming ﬁve-piece collection of engraved enamel watches.
Always A Delight
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS Midnight Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs
We have never seen a boring-looking watch by Van Cleef & Arpels, and this applies, whether it’s one of the brand’s precious Poetic Astronomy pieces or a useful dual-time watch. Having released its miniature-solarsystem-on-a-watch, the Midnight Planetarium, in 2014, Van Cleef & Arpels now adapts it for a smaller, 38mm model. The Lady Arpels Planetarium is smaller than its 44mm predecessor and, consequently, features three “planets” – made of different gemstones – instead of six, but makes up for it with a moon that revolves around the turquoise earth. Each celestial body moves at its actual speed.
While it’s not as far out, the Midnight Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs (“time here and time elsewhere”) is a fairly unusual dual-time watch. It simultaneously tells the time in two time zones, via a retrograde minute scale and two jumping-hour windows. First launched in a different case in 2014, the dual-time watch is now housed in a pink gold Midnight case and has a black dial instead of a white one. A stamped sun motif adds texture to the black dial, which in turn makes a bold contrast with the pink-gold case and hour-markers.