A showcase for new technologies, robots and a series of talks livestreamed to audiences around the world:

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

A showcase for new technologies, robots and a series of talks livestreamed to audiences around the world: These were among the fresh digital initiatives at the Salon de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), the exclusive Genevan watch show attended by a record-breaking 23,000 visitors in January.

But at the end of the day, two things still matter most in the high-horology industry: When we met A. Lange & Sohne CEO Wilhelm Schmid at the fair, we asked him if he had had the chance to check out the techcentric attractions. His wry reply? “I’ve been here (in the Lange booth) since the beginning of the week, meeting people from morning till eight o’clock in the evening daily, after which I rush to work dinners.” Some things, we are glad to say, never change.




When it came to presenting A. Lange & Sohne’s star novelty at SIHH 2019, company CEO Wilhelm Schmid lost no sleep over how it would be received by the brand’s famously fastidious fans. After all, he had little reason to doubt the success of the 25th anniversary edition of the brand’s signature timepiece, the Lange 1, a watch distinguished by its distinctive off-centre dial layout. Speaking to us on the last day of the fair, Schmid said with a smile: “When a watch is your bestseller for 25 consecutive years, practically unchanged, it is an easier task when you celebrate that anniversary.”

The first of 10 anniversary models that will be launched consecutively over the year, the Lange 1 “25th Anniversary” pays homage to an early Lange 1 model. Instead of the applied hour markers found on most Lange 1 watches, the 250-piece limited edition in white gold features printed indexes. Other features that set an otherwise familiar design apart are the dial’s multi-level aesthetic, and a hinged hunter caseback engraved with an image of the brand’s facility in Glashutte, as well as the names of the two men who played pivotal roles in relaunching the brand in 1994, Gunter Blumlein and Walter Lange.
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Last year, Audemars Piguet broke the billion-dollar mark (in Swiss francs) in revenue. This was proudly announced by its CEO, Francois-Henry Bennahmias, who made an appearance during the brand’s presentation to the press. You don’t sell 10 digits’ worth of watches without having done something right – and the brand is banking on the Code 11.59 collection to take the brand’s performance further north.

True to AP’s daring style, the brand has spared no effort in launching its new round-watch family, with which we can’t help feeling impressed. While a lesser brand might take a cautious approach to launching a new model by first introducing one or two new variants, Audemars Piguet has launched 13 new references – ranging from date-and-time automatics, to a minute repeater and a perpetual calendar. Within the collection, six of the movements used are the brand’s own, and three of those are new.

We like how the Code 11.59 pieces, all cased in gold, have plenty of interesting design details. One such example is the double-curved sapphire crystal – it’s concave on the top and convex at the bottom – that creates interesting variations in visual depth as you turn the watch. The new watches also feature a sandwich-style case construction that includes an octagonal case middle and hexagonal screws – a tribute, of course, to the brand’s iconic Royal Oak.
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While being known as a value-for-money brand is generally a good thing, the downside of this calling card is that it isn’t particularly sexy. We would say that this was largely the case for Baume & Mercier – until the release of its Clifton Baumatic last year. Powered by the brand’s own chronometer movement with anti-magnetic silicon components, as well as featuring a fi ve-day power reserve – all for less than $5,000 – the Baumatic was a big hit.

So, it’s hardly surprising that the brand is focusing its efforts on expanding the Clifton Baumatic family this year. Interestingly, the latest version of Baumatic Calibre BM13 does away with the silicon hairspring found in its predecessor, instead boosting the movement’s anti-magnetism with a protective shield made from a chrome-based alloy.

To demonstrate the versatility of the BM13 automatic calibre, Baume & Mercier has used it as the foundation of a new high-complication addition to the Baumatic family. Featuring a pleasingly balanced dial – always a challenge when a watch displays a wealth of information – the Clifton Baumatic Perpetual Calendar is housed in a 42mm red gold case and features a warm white porcelain like dial. Pretty sexy.
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When describing large watches, one way to describe them is to say they could double as clocks. This is literally the truth for one of Bovet’s blockbusters for 2019. Exhibiting for the first time at the SIHH, the independent brand demonstrated its penchant for highly decorated, maximalist and traditionally skewed timepieces.

The loftily named Tourbillon Amadeo Fleurier Virtuoso IX is a substantial timepiece with a diameter of 46.3mm and a thickness of 16mm. As its name suggests, it is housed in the brand’s patented convertible Amadeo case, which allows the watch to be easily transformed into a pocket watch or a small table clock.

Plenty lies within: The watch has a dual-time function, with the subdial at 10 o’clock displaying the time in a second time zone, along with the corresponding name of one of 24 cities. With a handguilloche and enamelled dial, the watch also boasts a big date and flying tourbillon. Should its owner tire of this view (grand as it may be), he or she can flip the watch over – the dial on the reverse features hour and minute hands, set atop the engraved architectural bridges of the movement.
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Not too long ago, Cartier seemed determined to prove its haute-horlogerie credentials by turning out innovative and complex movements at every SIHH. But, when the market softened a few years ago, the watch and jewellery powerhouse refocused its energies on its biggest strength: design. During a chat with us at the Cartier booth – the largest booth at the luxury watch fair – the brand’s Image, Style and Heritage director, Pierre Rainero, shared: “We definitely want to put the complications at the service of the aesthetics.”

In other words, Cartier isn’t abandoning its innovative technical movements, but they are no longer an end in themselves. Rather, they have to complement the brand’s designs. A great example of this is Rainero’s favourite new watch this year, the Skeleton Dual Time Zone Tonneau Watch. Dating back to 1906 and characterised by a curved barrelshaped case, the Tonneau watch is actually Cartier’s oldest timepiece to be serially produced. While a previous dual-time Tonneau model featured a more straightforward mechanism that used two small independent movements to power each of the time displays, the latest skeletonised edition uses a single movement to power both time displays. The curved shape of the case – in either platinum (pictured) or pink gold – called for several movement modifications, such as the angled cutting of certain components. The result? A stunner, inside and out.

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Two years ago, Girard-Perregaux brought back one of itsclassic models from 1975 to re-establish it as one of itsmodern signatures. Having grown the Laureato familyquickly since its relaunch in 2017, the brand now updates its octagonal-bezelled watch for the next generation with a sporty new look. Enter the Laureato Absolutefamily: Instead of an engraved dial, traditional cases insteel or gold, and a size of 42mm, the new timepiecesnow come in a larger 44mm black PVD-treated titanium case, and display time on a gradated blue dial. Each powered by manufacture movements, the three self-winding watches that make up the Laureato Absolute novelties comprise a time-and-date automatic model, a chronograph and a WWTC worldtimer (pictured), the last of which shows the time in 24 different time zones at a glance. A bonus in our humid weather or for those who like to dive into deep water bodies with their fine timepieces on, these watches are all water-resistant to 300m.

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In 2006, Greubel Forsey first set the standard for what a multi-level, architectural watch dial could be, when it created the out-of-the-box Opus 6 for Harry Winston. From 2013 to 2018, the brand’s founders Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey would take their creativity and peerless finishing to the next level with their Art Piece watches, one of which actually housed a miniature sculpture by British artist Willard Wigan, and required the integration of a special high-power magnifier into the case.

Now, the brand concludes their Art Piece series with the Art Piece Edition Historique. On show on the lower part of the dial is Greubel Forsey’s inclined double-axis tourbillon, held in place by two black-polished steel bridges (there’s one on the back as well). The raised part of the dial, on the other hand, provides a literal platform for another brand signature: Precise engravings of words representing the brand’s philosophy.

While we wouldn’t buy this work of art just for the time, it’s there – if you want it. Amid the circular portion of the raised dial, a red arrow points at the hours, while the minutes are shown in an elongated window that can be concealed at the touch of a pusher on the crown. The brand will produce just 33 pieces of this 44mm watch, beginning with 11 in platinum and the remaining 22 to be made from different materials.
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Head in the stars, feet on the ground: This was an Hermes philosophy laid down by the company’s esteemed former chairman Jean-Louis Dumas, according to Laurent Dordet, CEO of the brand’s watchmaking division La Montre Hermes. Which helps to explain why Hermes watches never fail to surprise or, at the very least, delight.

The brand’s latest lunar watch, Arceau L’Heure De La Lune, certainly does both. While most moonphase watches feature a moon disc that creeps across a dial cut-out to represent changing lunar phases, the Hermes team opted for a different approach. Set into stone dials of either aventurine or meteorite, the mother-of-pearl moon discs in this 32mm white gold timepiece remain stationary.

Instead, two mobile counters, displaying the time and date, rotate around the dial, obscuring the lunar discs to show the different stages of the moon as it waxes and wanes. In typical playful Hermes fashion, the world within this watch is turned topsy-turvy, with the moon on top reflecting that in the Southern Hemisphere, while the one at the bottom represents what you’ll see in the Northern Hemisphere.
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Walter Volpers, IWC’s associate director of Product Management Techniques, was in a jolly mood when we met him at his brand’s aviation-themed booth. After all, Pilot’s Watches, IWC’s key focus for 2019, hold a special place in the heart of the Colombia-born IWC veteran. Making reference to one of the brand’s key aviation watches, Volpers revealed: “When I first came to Switzerland 22 years ago, I fell in love with the Mark XII.” Today, his personal watch collection includes eight IWC Pilot’s timepieces.

This year, he – and multitudes of other IWC fans – will be spoilt for choice. Materials and movements take centre stage, with an important new material being Ceratanium, and not just because the matte black alloy looks cool as heck as the case material for the 44mm Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium (pictured). Requiring seven years to develop and only previously used two years ago on a limited-edition Aquatimer dive watch, Ceratanium is a combination of ceramic and titanium, with the scratch-resistance and lightness of both materials, respectively.

There’s plenty happening on the movement front too. All seven new references in the revamped Spitfire collection contain IWC in-house movements, which power models ranging from time-only automatics and chronographs, to a perpetual calendar. Of these, we reckon the four bronze models with deep green dials will fly off shelves most quickly.
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The new 18-piece limited edition grand complications master stroke by Jaeger-LeCoultre showcases an impressive number of complications housed within a relatively compact 43mm white gold case. Chiefly, a Westminster-chime minute repeater with a retractable pusher, four sets of sapphire crystal square shaped gongs with striking hammers occupying a maximum area of contact, and a silence-reduction function delivering crisp sound with no time delay in between chimes.

Meanwhile, Jaeger-LeCoultre also uses a constant-force mechanism that helps to isolate the tourbillon’s regulator from the barrel’s varying torque, regulating the minute wheel for a precise jumping minute and perfect chime. The openwork dial allows wearers to view the minute repeater in action, and it displays the watch’s excellent hand guilloche, martelage (fine hammering) effect and grand feu enamelling. The timepiece is available in two dials – blue guilloche enamel or silver-grained – with a blue alligator strap.
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Panerai’s all-out Submersible campaign this year made sure that its diving-watch family had an edition to suit every discernible (albeit outdoorsy) taste. Going one further, the maison’s early embrace of experiential marketing for its customers sees it tailoring once-ina-lifetime experiences for them. This year, the brand is offering three special editions, in partnership with the Comsubin (the Italian naval special forces), South Africa-born explorer Mike Horn and French free-diving champion Guillaume Nery. The watches bearing their signature aren’t just desirable timepieces, they also come with the chance to experience adventure with the respective Panerai ambassadors. One of our favourites? The Submersible Mike Horn Edition, by a hair.

Here, the diving watch employs the use of a world-first Ecotitanium material, made from recycled titanium, for its 47mm case, bezel and caseback. Its strap is made from recycled plastic in support of Horn’s conservation efforts. Each of the 19 owners of this limited-edition timepiece will have the exclusive opportunity to follow – for a couple of days – the famed explorer on one of his extreme expeditions. Better start training.
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Montblanc pays fitting tribute to its Minerva archives with the Heritage collection harking back to classic mid-century elegance. Limited to 100 pieces, the Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph incorporates a chronograph and a pulsometer – once used by physicians in the last century to check a patient’s heartbeat – replacing the tachymeter with a pulsograph indication that is graduated for 30 pulsations. This classic interpretation is set off  by a warm salmon dial displaying applied Arabic numerals and dot indexes domed with two different colours and finishes, as well as dauphine-shaped hands, blued chronograph hands and a chronograph scale with red markers at every quarter hour.

Inside the 40mm steel case, a modern boost is provided by the Montblanc manufacture Monopusher Chronograph Calibre MB M13.21, inspired by the historical Minerva Monopusher Chronograph 13.20 movement of the 1920s. The simplicity of the old school single-pusher, lateral-clutch movement can be viewed from the caseback, its gracefulness highlighted by its hand-chamfered edges, circular graining and Geneva stripes.
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One of Parmigiani Fleurier’s crowning achievements is a tonneau-shaped integrated chronograph entirely manufactured by the brand, and it is available in two versions – the Kalpagraphe Chronometre, and its more ornate sibling, the Kalpa Chronor. As the brand aptly put it, an integrated chronograph is the holy grail of an independent manufacture. To produce a self-winding chronograph movement that fits perfectly inside a case – arranged on a single mainplate so all its mechanical elements are finely synchronised – is much more challenging than plopping a chronograph module atop a base movement.

The COSC-certified PF362 movement oscillates at a high frequency of 5Hz (36,000 vibrations an hour), ensuring greater chronograph accuracy. Diverging from its classical tendencies this year, Parmigiani’s latest version of the Kalpagraphe Chronometre is a sporty one featuring a matte black dial within a case of titanium – a material that makes the 48.2mm by 40.9mm timepiece wear much lighter than it looks.
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Piaget’s famed ultra-thin series already heralded buzz for its new trio of watches even before the start of SIHH, but the Altiplano Tourbillon must be worn to be fully appreciated. Its unconventional off-centre placement of both its flying tourbillon window at two o’clock, and hours and minutes, is given a cosmic edge against a blue meteorite dial enclosed in a 41mm pink gold case surrounded by 85 brilliant-cut diamonds. The use of meteorite on an extremely thin watch does not come without its challenges and Piaget’s gemstone-cutting savoir faire sees this material from outer space spliced into the finest of slices with razor-sharp precision.

Altiplano’s ultra-thin hand-wound tourbillon Calibre 670P is wafer-thin at 4.6mm, yet provides a 48-hour power reserve. Extremely fine finishing on the movement includes hand-bevelled bridges with circular Cotes de Geneve and a hand-bevelled flying tourbillon cage. A blue alligator strap completes the timepiece, limited to just 28 pieces.
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Richard Mille goes full Willy Wonka this year with a range of sweet treats, each one more colourful than the last. A clear departure from his racing stance, the 10 kaleidoscopic limited-edition models across two series of Fruits and Sweets explore a treasure trove of favourites, from liquorice swirls to lollipops.

The collection may hark back to childhood but, make no mistake – there’s no doubting the serious craftsmanship behind each creation under the direction of artistic director Cecile Guenat. Titanium sweets and fruit slices, finished with grand feu enamel or black chrome, are painstakingly rendered – some with single-hair paint brushes – to recreate the textures and look of each candy.

The acute attention to detail means that each timepiece takes no less than 18 months to produce. Each confection is housed in Carbon TPT and Quartz TPT, and is limited to 30 pieces per model.
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Presented by the high-octane trifecta of RogerDubuis, Lamborghini Squadra Corse and Pirelli,everything about the Excalibur One-Off draws inspiration from the Lamborghini SC18 Alston, the first, one-off hypercar. This is apparent in the way the RD106SQ Calibre with a double flying tourbillon emulates the Lamborghini’s V-shaped engine; by itsPirelli signature L-branded strap; as well as by its useof C-SMC carbon – a Lamborghini mainstay – in thecase, flange and bridge, along with a woven-carbon case middle. The timepiece also looks to the supercar’s tachometer through its double-disc jumping hour, with one hand for the minutes and a jumping hours counter, shown at 12 o’clock. The rev counters of the car is also paid tribute to by two sapphire components. Just as unique is a function selector that allows the wearer to choose watch settings, such as W for Wind The Watch, which brings to mind a supercar mode selector. This is, however, a vicarious thrill – it was sold at SIHH itself, its 1-million Swiss franc (S$1.4 million) price tag notwithstanding.

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X marks Ulysse Nardin’s spot for the year, with a keen eye trained on the manual-winding Skeleton X. Thanks to its excellent use of space reinforced by its compelling X-shaped rectangular bridge and an economical use of Roman-numeral hour markers to just III and IX,  a 42mm case still provides an extensive view of the brand’s extra-wide silicon balance wheel with nickel flyweights and stabilising micro-blades, a standout feature of the completely redesigned Calibre UN-371, which has a robust 96-hour power reserve.

Of the four versions,  the Carbonium Gold is distinctive with its use of super-light, high performance Carbonium – material usually reserved for aeronautics manufacturing – fused with gold for a black-and-gold wave pattern alluding to Ulysse Nardin’s nautical heritage. Straps span rubber and alligator for the titanium and rose gold versions,  and rubber and grained calf for the Carbonium Gold. Just as attractive as the watch itself is its pricing, with its most accessible titanium version set at 17,500 Swiss francs (S$23,600).
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Vacheron Constantin ups the ante in fine watchmaking with the Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar, challenging the norm with a whopping 65day power reserve option via a pusher that switches its 3610QP movement from a conventional 5Hz active (wearing) mode to a 1.2Hz standby (resting) mode. You could essentially leave it on standby mode for two months without recalibrating the time or calendar. This milestone is achieved via two separate gear trains each operating at the two different frequencies, both connected to one large mainspring. The power reserve indicator is viewed at 12 o’clock with two aligned scales, one for each mode, with the selected mode shown at nine o’clock.

Three subdials occupy the lower half, each showing the months, date and leap year with accuracy maintained by a spiral spring system in place of a standard snail cam mechanism. Equally impressive is that this is all gracefully fitted into a mere 42mm wide, 12.3mm thick platinum case, making it a wearable – and yes, very cool – addition to one’s collection.