I have returned to my native Lancashire and, staring through my office window, I can now reflect on the numerous watches revealed last week at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). The annual pilgrimage to Geneva is a feast of horological indulgence and as a glutton for fine watchmaking, I never tire of its alluring charms.
This year, SIHH 2014 did not disappoint with many wonderful creations from some of the finest maisons in existence. Moreover, there were a few surprises in terms of the novelties revealed and, at times, some of the prices released.
Distilling my thoughts, I have created a compilation of my personal highlights, together with a brief explanation for their appeal. I have no doubt that during 2014, the team of contributors at DreamChrono will provide a more detailed critique of some of the models discussed herein.
SIHH 2014 Highlights – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph
Two “iconic” Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph models are the “Safari” and the “Navy”. They are arguably the most memorable models from the Royal Oak Offshore collection. It was therefore brave of the brand to revisit the models for 2014, potentially jeopardising the popularity of the watches that have proved much loved for several years.
However, Octavio Garcia, Artistic Director for Audemars Piguet, together with his colleagues, have successfully enhanced the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph. The new “26470” replaces the former “26170” model and the latest collection consists of six variants.
Many of the details have been retained including the case diameter of 42mm. The changes made are subtle, but perfectly judged. Black ceramic now features on the crown and push pieces, replacing the rubber formerly used. These push pieces have are slightly matt appearance, gently interfacing with ambient light.
A significant change is the inclusion of an exhibition caseback. Whilst I often freely talk of my affection for the “Safari” and the “Navy”, I have, in the past, criticised the absence of a sapphire crystal adorning the caseback. I felt that so much craftsmanship, for example the engraved 22-carat gold oscillating mass, was hidden from view. Thankfully, Audemars Piguet has sated my cravings with the 26470 collection, fitting a window to the rear of the watch and affording a priceless view to please purist’s hearts. One glance at the Calibre 3126 / 3840 Manufacture confirms why AP is considered one of the three “great dames” of haute horlogerie.
New dial options are available, including a new “Safari” timepiece featuring an ivory-toned dial, brown counters and a brown inner flange, instead of the white items of the former model. It continues to be presented on a hand stitched “hornback” brown alligator strap and looks stunning.
Nevertheless, my favourite version has to be the new drop-dead gorgeous, “Navy”. The blue subdials of the former 26170 have been replaced with silver-toned counters. The white dial and inner flange are now a beguiling blue.
Whilst I loved the blue “hornback” strap of the former “Navy”, the blue rubber strap on the new 26470 is stunning and wonderfully coalesces with the new dial. Often I regret not purchasing a watch only to see it become subsequently discontinued. In this instance, a superb watch has been improved and the “Navy” ownership proposition has just got better. (www.audemarspiguet.com)
SIHH 2014 Highlights – Baume & Mercier Clifton 1892 Flying Tourbillon
Baume & Mercier, the Genevan brand founded in 1830, has earned a reputation for producing affordable, well designed timepieces. The company does not purport to be a “manufacture” and openly discloses that it procures movements from ETA, La Joux Perret and fellow Richemont brands.
The maison often impresses by delivering quality watches, inspired by former timepieces from their back catalogue. The design team, headed by Alexandre Peraldi, distill former classics for today’s watch buying public. Last year at SIHH 2013, the Clifton collection, based on a model from the 1950s, was released and subsequently further models were added to the range. According to Alain Zimmerman, CEO of Baume et Mercier, the Clifton has been a resounding success.
This year, Baume & Mercier surprised many journalists by revealing the Clifton 1892 Flying Tourbillon, a complication normally the preserve of the most prestigious brands. The model is a limited edition of 30 pieces, presented in a 45.5 mm diameter case and featuring a hand-wound movement from IWC.
The model is stunning and takes its inspiration from a hand-wound pocket watch, produced by Baume & Mercier in 1892. At the time, this pocket watch was submitted to the Kew Observatory where held the record for 10 years as the world’s most accurate watch.
Baume & Mercier is not making any overtures to enter the upper-echelons of haute horlogerie. Indeed, there are several sister-brands within the Richemont group which serve this market segment very well. The purpose of the Baume & Mercier Clifton 1892 Flying Tourbillon is to demonstrate the competence of the brand. Moreover, marketing types would say the model creates a “halo” effect, where buyers of affordable Clifton models vicariously “buy into” the kudos of the Tourbillon.
I do find myself impressed by the aesthetics of this model. Hopefully, the brand will one day consider offering an array of complicated timepieces, priced at the accessible levels for which Baume & Mercier have become known for. (www.baume-et-mercier.com)
SIHH 2014 Highlights – Calibre de Cartier Diver Watch 42mm, pink gold
Cartier is a name synonymous with luxury and style. When I think of the Cartier nomen I conjure up thoughts of their elegant dress watches, such as the Tank Française or Tank Américaine. Indeed, on first hearing of a diver’s watch from the Parisian maison, I thought it sounded a little utilitarian for this historically stylish brand. However, this is Cartier and rest assured on seeing their latest range of diver’s watches, I can report they are imbued with copious quantities of style.
There are various models within the line-up including steel, steel and gold and, my personal favourite, the pink gold model. Some variants are available on a bracelet but the black rubber strap, with its textured surface, is exquisite.
Housed within the watch is the 1904 MC self-winding movement.
Despite looking exceptionally handsome, Cartier has not dispensed with the practical prerequisites of a genuine diver’s watch. The ADLC bezel is unidirectional and the watch conforms to the technical requirements of ISO 6425. The display is eminently clear and the bezel has a very positive feel when turned.
The watch displays hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds and date. The specification of the Calibre de Cartier Diver Watch 42mm is completed with an impressive water resistance of 300 metres. In summary, this is an accomplished fusion of good looks and mechanical virtue delivered in a highly wearable watch suitable for everyday use. (www.cartier.com)