WITH MORE PARTICIPATING WATCH BRANDS(35), MORE VISITORS THAN EVER (20,000) AND NEW DIGITAL INITIATIVES, THE SALON INTERNATIONAL DE LA HAUTE HORLOGERIE (SIHH) ANNUAL WATCH FAIR IS MOVING TOWARDS ACHIEVING THAT TRICKY EQUILIBRIUM BETWEEN EXCLUSIVITY AND HOLDING ITS OWN IN A NOISY DIGITAL-DOMINATED WORLD. HERE, OUR REPORT FROM GENEVA, FEATURING THE FAIR’S BEST BOOTHS, CELEBRITY SPOTTINGS, WATCH-CHIEF QUOTES, AND OF COURSE, WATCHES AND HOROLOGICAL INNOVATIONS.
During SIHH 2018 in Geneva, it was about 5 deg C and drizzly outside. Those conditions made the Piaget booth especially inviting. Dominating the space was a pool- like body of water, with a cocktail bar at its centre, and beach chairs for fair-goers to take little breaks from the abundance of high ho- rology. It was a fun way to convey Piaget’s latest campaign, Sunny Side Of Life, featuring new ambassador, top Dutch model Doutzen Kroes.
A. LANGE & SOHNE
Making a split-seconds chronograph is challenging enough, but A. Lange & Sohne made it more so by adding a split-minutes function in its Double Split in 2004, allowing the watch to record elapsed times of up to 30 minutes. This year the Triple Split takes the complication to outrageous new heights by including split hours, upping the recordable time to an astonishing 12 hours. It’s a world- first, so it is limited to only 100 pieces.
ROYAL OAK RD#2 ULTRA-THIN PERPETUAL CALENDAR
It may not look it, but this is indeed Audemars Piguet’s second experimental RD watch, following in the footsteps of the incredible chiming RD#1 last year. The classically styled perpetual calendar is the thinnest automatic one in the world, with the in-house 5133 calibre coming in at just 2.89mm thick. With the case it remains an unbelievably skinny 6.3mm, and took five years to develop.
BAUME & MERCIER
Baume & Mercier announced its first proprietary automatic movement, the BM12-1975A, and it’s fairly impressive for its price. Introduced in the Clifton Baumatic, the self-winding calibre is chronometer-certified, has five days of power reserve, features a silicon balance spring, and is resistant to magnetic fields up to 1,500 gauss. Impressively, the Baumatic is going for just $4,000.
Proudly celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, IWC took its visitors back to where it all began. Nope, not the days of the company’s beginnings in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, but to Industrial Revolution-era Boston – where IWC’s American founder Florentine Ariosto Jones ﬁrst learnt the trade by working for a well-known American watchmaking company. The mechanics of one of the key pieces in its Jubilee watch collection inspired the centrepiece: a large “time machine” with digital display discs.
STARS AT SIHH
True story – several Singaporean watch journalists shared the same Munich- to-Geneva plane as Piaget ambassador and American actor Ryan Reynolds. Egged on by members of our party, the journalist sitting in the same row as Reynolds tried to sneak a photo of him, who realised what was up and requested (nicely) that she stop. The actor later asked if she wanted to take a wefie with him, explaining that he had been speaking to his kids earlier.
In the movie Dr Strange, English actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s character Stephen Strange wears a Jaeger- LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual watch. Now, he will also wear the brand offscreen as its latest ambassador.
It’s no surprise that Swiss luxury watch brands have been signing up Chinese artistes – such as actors Hu Ge and Kris Wu – to up their appeal to the vast Chinese watch market. Actor-singer Yang Yang is the latest face of Montblanc, sporting one of Montblanc’s new Star Legacy watches at the brand’s gala dinner.
SANTOS DE CARTIER SKELETON
In recent years, Cartier has been focusing on its newer watch families with a distinctive shape, such as the oval Cle de Cartier and the Drive de Cartier, which comes in a rounded square case. For 2018, the brand returns to its roots with a revamped, thinner version of its iconic square-shaped watch, the Santos. At the top of this collection are new skeletonised Santos models, available in yellow or pink gold (pictured), steel and gold, or steel.
MINUTE REPEATER TRI-AXIAL TOURBILLON
We’re glad to see Girard-Perregaux return to making ultra-complicated chiming watches. Though not from the Opera series, the Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon packs some serious sound. The mainplate has been com- bined with the titanium case to ensure more efficient sound transmission. But don’t let the bells distract you from the equally impressive multi-axis tourbillon at the bottom of the dial.
It’s been 10 years since Greubel Forsey revealed its Differential d’Egalite, the brand’s patented constant-force mechanism. This year it re-emerges with improvements, allowing it to maintain a constant balance amplitude for all 60 hours of its power reserve. It is also the first watch from the duo to feature dead-beat seconds.
Hermes’ square Carre H watch, designed in collaboration with architect Marc Berthier in 2010, gets a visual update this year with a larger size (38mm instead of 36.5mm) and a round dial within the angular case. The combination of polished and microbead-blasted finishes, guilloche dial and faceted indexes and hands add texture to this contemporary design.
Vacheron Constantin has long been one of the most respected manufactures in the business, but the problem with being a historical maison is that people might not realise you have a younger, “fun-ner” side too. Enter the brand’s new “retro-contemporary” Fiftysix collection and its gentlemen’s club-themed booth in Geneva. Amid a modern-industrial setting of woods and greys, a mix- ologist and barista turned out restorative drinks either relaxing or rejuve- nating. Weighty coffee-table books and a turntable sat next to display cases housing Vacheron Con- stantin’s new timepieces.
THE FAIR GOES DIGITAL
ALTERNA - REALITIES
Frankly, we think there’s still much room for improvement when harnessing virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality as part of a brand experience. For VR, the headsets are clunky and, as much as we try to suspend our disbelief, we’ve never truly felt like we were, say, floating around in outer space. That said, we still applaud the efforts of brands leading the charge, such as Montblanc with its immersive mountain- exploration experience, and Jaeger- LeCoultre’s augmented- reality app that lets you virtually try on watches on your wrist.
ITS OWN APP
Launched last year, the SIHH app was significantly improved this year, offering maps, transport timetables and reminders before brands’ media presentations. Most significantly, it also served as a platform for SIHH Live – broadcasting live footage from a newly set up auditorium, featuring talks and interviews with industry heavyweights.
SOCIAL-MEDIA PHOTO BOOTHS
These days, it’s almost impossible to attend an event without a photo booth – and a unique hashtag meant to accompany the photo on social media. At Piaget, we were immortalised in a GIF image that had us looking like we were clawing our way out of a pool. Montblanc’s photo booth let visitors look like they had been caught on camera while climbing a mountain.
TRIBUTE TO PALLWEBER EDITION ‘150YEARS’
To celebrate its 150th anniversary, IWC has launched 28 models characterised by white or blue lacquered dials across all its pillar collections. The face of the new range may not be familiar to all, though, as the Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years” is a wristwatch tribute to the digital display Pallweber pocket watches that IWC made in 1885.
To mark the 50th anniversary of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Memovox Polaris diving alarm watch, the manufacture has released an entirely new collection of Polaris models to commemorate the event. The Polaris Memovox, however, is the only one (this year, at least) to replicate the original from 1968. It has a 42mm stainless steel case with a black dial and cream- coloured markers to give it a lovely retro look. Limited to 1,000 pieces.
Taking on the theme of mountain exploration this year, Montblanc has released a fascinating tool watch that combines a dual-time display with a world-time complication that is depicted via both Northern and Southern hemispheres. Adding to its adventurous look are the compass-like bi-directional rotating bezel and a caseback that pays homage to the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge.
Montblanc – which translates to White Mountain – gets its name from the highest mountain in western Europe. And this year, the brand celebrates the 160th anniversary of its high-end Minerva movement manufac- ture with a collection of mountaineer- ing-themed new watch- es in its Montblanc 1858 family. Hence the mountain chalet vibe at the brand’s booth. Surrounded by landscapes of Mont Blanc, a large spherical wooden cage created an indoors-meets-out- doors setting for the reﬁned yet rugged 1858 timepieces.
QUOTES FROM THE CEOS
WILHELM SCHMID, A. LANGE & SOHNE CEO
“Young people don’t want us to be different; they just want to understand us. I haven’t met any young person who has told me, ‘I don’t need quality, I want my products to lose their value quickly, and please, it mustn’t look good.’”
GEOFFROY LEFEBVRE, JAEGER-LECOULTRE DEPUTY CEO
“Today every brand is about storytelling. People want to hear stories, but they want to hear real stories, not made-up ones. Our stories all have the same point of convergence, the maker’s spirit. We won’t tell stories for millennials, stories for women, stories for whatever.”
FRANCOIS-HENRY BENNAHMIAS, AUDEMARS PIGUET CEO
“We are seeing consolidation in every aspect of retail, whether it’s watches, food or products from other industries. In the US, Amazon buying Whole Foods was a huge thing – so now, you don’t just buy your computer stuff, but also your carrots, from Amazon, and there’s one less player in between.”
PATRICK PRUNIAUX, ULYSSE NARDIN CEO AND FORMER APPLE EXECUTIVE
“You think I would have accepted a job in the luxury watch industry if I thought the Apple Watch was a mechanical watch killer? I think the Apple Watch is a big success... but I’m absolutely convinced there’s even more room for mechanical watches now.”
L’ASTRONOMO LUMINOR 1950 PAM920
Panerai’s second tribute watch to Galileo Galilei is once again a beast packed with astronomical complications. Its full name reveals its major functions – L’Astronomo Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation of Time GMT – and it is also the brand’s first moonphase, which is located on the back. It uses Panerai’s patented tourbillon regulator, and also uses an innovative system of polarised crystals to indicate the date. Made to order.
There aren’t many watchmakers who have tonneau-shaped in-house movements, so Parmigiani is proud to be one of them. First introduced in 1998, the Kalpa family welcomes an elegant new model this year, the Kalpa Hebdomadaire, in 18K rose gold with a generous eight-day power reserve.
ALTIPLANO ULTIMATE CONCEPT WATCH
It was just last month that Piaget unveiled the world’s thinnest self- winding watch, the 4.3mm thick Altiplano Ultimate Automatic 910P. Now it’s followed up with the thinnest hand-wound watch ever, the inconceivably slim Altiplano Ultimate Concept Watch. Doing away with a balance cock, shock-absorbing system and jewels helped keep the watch’s thickness to just 2mm. There are five patents pending for this marvel.
RICHARD MILLE RM
53-01 TOURBILLON PABLO MAC DONOUGH
The first watch Richard Mille made for polo star Pablo Mac Donough was the RM 053 and it looked like a tank as most of the watch face was covered by titanium. Its successor, the RM 53-01, is far showier but no less tough. It is in fact sturdier, thanks to a movement suspended within the Carbon TPT case via cables to offer superior shock resistance, and it’s so confident of this that a tourbillon was included.
TIME TO PLAY
“The ability to astonish is more important than traditional demonstra- tions,” states Hermes artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas, in the brand’s SIHH press release. Showcasing its latest timepieces at SIHH instead of Baselworld for the ﬁrst time, Hermes brought its unique sense of play- fulness to the fair. At the heart of its maple- wood-clad atrium was an installation by Dutch artist Levi Van Veluw, which featured inter- active and charmingly low-tech clockwork-like displays that could be activated by visitors.
Young Belgian brand Ressence is known for its unique rotating- disc time display. This year, it makes waves with the e-Crown, an electro- mechanical module that needs only to be set once, and can subsequently set the time for Ressence’s mechanical watches. It’s powered by a mix of kinetic energy and solar energy, so purists need not fret about the presence of a – fie! – battery in their mechanical timepieces.
MB&F: PROJECTED MOONPHASE
The MB&F HM8 had a vertical time display – it’s presented like a car dashboard indicator – that was actually the projection of a flat display by optical prisms. Now, MB&F partners Finnish watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva to create the Moonmachine 2, which includes the world’s first projected moon- phase display. Employing the same technology used in the HM8, Sarpaneva’s frowning moon face indicates the moonphase, in between the jumping hours and wandering minutes.
H. MOSER: REIMAGINED WANDERING HOURS
Most associated with indie brand Urwerk these days, wandering- hours displays typically feature hour discs that move across a minutes arc. H. Moser unveils its own take on this feature with the Endeavour Flying Hours watch, which has both moving hours and minutes discs. The hour discs have cutouts, so the correct hour will appear white, while an arrow beneath that hour marker points to the correct minutes on the minutes disc.
EXCALIBUR AVENTADOR S BLUE
Roger Dubuis continues to zoom into the world of motor sports with its latest collaboration with Italian sports-car maker Lamborghini. One of the latest additions to its collaborative watches is the Excalibur Aventador S Blue, which is powered by a specially developed movement featuring Roger Dubuis’ Duotor double balance wheels and design aesthetics inspired by Lamborghini cars.
Concept watches are wonderful inspirations but are rarely feasible for regular production. So Ulysse Nardin has scaled back on the 10 innovations found in last year’s Freak Innovision 2 to give us the very wearable Freak Vision. It is the first commercially available automatic Freak, has an extra-light escape wheel made of silicon and nickel, and a constant Anchor Escapement.
Inspired by one of its first automatic models, the Ref. 6073 from 1956, Vacheron Constantin’s latest collection is the first to offer a non-sports watch in both precious metals (pink gold, in this case) and steel. The collection includes a three-hand with date model, a day-date model with power reserve indicator (shown), and a complete calendar with moonphase.
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
LADY ARPELS PLANETARIUM
The miniature solar system that is Van Cleef & Arpels’ Midnight Planetarium is now available in a ladies’ model. Its smaller case size of 38mm means there are fewer planets (three, instead of six), but a diamond-set bezel adds drama. The pink mother- of-pearl orb represents Mercury, the green enamel is Venus and turquoise is for Earth.