The past year might have been tough on the Swiss watch market, but that doesn't mean top watchmakers are slowing down or dumbing down their creations. In fact, if one looks around the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) watch show in Geneva this week, one sees countless examples of brands big and small doubling down on their most extravagant creations, adding new complications, turning concepts into reality, and making modern classics better. Here are five watches that prove there's still horological ground to be broken in 2016.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Super Sonnerie
Last year Audemars Piguet presented a concept watch (the RD1), a prototype that was supposed to be a totally new kind of minute repeater. Sure, it sounded great, but there was only a single working model, details were mostly under wraps, and it was never going to be for sale. This is the production version of that watch. It's a massive titanium tourbillon chronograph with a special chiming mechanism inside. By using a new kind of mounting system for the resonating gongs and an altered mechanism for striking those gongs, the Super Sonnerie produces loud, crisp sound you'll want to hear over and over. (Good thing, because you will.) Only 50 will be made, it will take two years to make them all, and each will sell for $597,400.
MB&F HM6 SV
Yes, what you're looking at is a watch that actually tells the time. As if the original HM6 "Space Pirate" wasn't crazy enough, the mad scientists at MB&F have gone a step further and made the front and back portions of the case entirely out of sapphire. In total are 11 pieces of sapphire: a front plate, a back plate, five domes on the front, and four domes on the back, and they're sealed off with a bright blue gasket so the watch is still entirely water resistant. The clean cover lets you see all the mechanics, including the angular gears and the adjustable metal shield that can be closed over the tourbillon. It is available in either red gold (350,000 Swiss francs, approximately $348,000) or platinum (380,000 Swiss francs, approximately $378,000) and each will be limited to just 10 pieces.
A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon
The updated Datograph Perpetual was one of my favorite watches from SIHH 2015. While that was mostly an aesthetic update, this year Lange's totally reengineered the watch from the ground up. The result is a sporty platinum chronograph with a sleek black dial that packs a large date, moonphase, perpetual calendar, and power reserve indicator up front and a beautiful tourbillon in the back. To add the tourbillon to the movement, Lange had to start nearly from scratch, and therefore the caliber looks distinct from that of its predecessors. This is the rare megawatch you could actually wear every day. Only 100 pieces will be made, with a price of 295,000 euro (approximately $320,000). They're going to go fast.
Greubel Forsey Double Balancier 30 Degrees
Back in 2011, Greubel Forsey showed a concept movement with two balance wheels, each tilted at 35 degrees. A handful of watches were made in the ensuing years, but this Double Balancier is the first real production piece to feature the idea. The angle has been adjusted to 30 degrees, and the balances have been placed so they can never be perfectly vertical and horizontal, respectively. To start, Greubel Forsey is making 33 pieces, all in white gold, with a 350,000 Swiss franc (approximately $348,000) price tag. This is a watch that was worth waiting half a decade for.
Montblanc Timewalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph
Montblanc has been somewhat split as a watchmaker over the past few years, making more affordable watches targeted at mainstream consumers while also dreaming up crazy movements at their Villeret manufacture. This model is the first in the accessible Timewalker collection to feature a movement from Villeret, and it's a doozey. For $39,400, you get an aggressive-looking tourbillon with Montblanc's signature chronograph layout (with the two little dials below the main time-telling dial). It's the best of Montblanc's two worlds.