Twelve Show-Stoppers From SIHH, 2017's First Big Watch Fair
Every January for the past couple of decades, Richemont Group brands such as Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Jaeger-LeCoultre jointly host a watch fair in Geneva called the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève, or SIHH for short. Over the years other brands, like Ulysse Nardin, MB&F, and H. Moser et Cie have join in showcasing their new wares for 2017 to wholesalers, small retailers, and journalists. I toured the show this week, and these were the highlights.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time
This watch from Jaeger-LeCoultre marks the first time a flying tourbillon complication has been included on a world timer. The execution is elegant and feels perfectly natural. The blue portions of the dial, which represent the oceans, are hand-guillochéd in a wave pattern, and 26 global cities are marked on the outer ring. It’s an automatic movement with a pink-gold winding rotor and 48-hour power reserve.
Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1
Yes, the name is a mouthful. But there is a lot going on in this watch, the first release in a 10-year partnership with racing brand McLaren. Made from carbon, titanium, and a material called graphene, it takes design cues from the McLaren racer, such as the hollow pushers and the rubberized torque reducer on the crown. Richard Mille claims this is the lightest split-second tourbillon watch on the market. (I held it, and it is indeed very light.)
Price: €980,000 ($1.04 million)
Baume et Mercier Clifton Club Shelby Cobra
This new version of Baume et Mercier’s partnership with Shelby is a real looker. The flyback chronograph has a split color dial and red contrast stitching on the strap, both meant to evoke the famous 1964 Shelby Cobra. (There’s also a snakelike nod to the car’s name at the tail end of the chrono hand.) It will be available starting in April, and only 196 will be made.
Officine Panerai LAB-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days
This watch is mostly cool because of the material it’s made from: carbotech, which is created through a process of fusing many layers of carbon under high pressure. According to the brand, it’s lighter and more stress-resistant than titanium. The dial is made up of tiny black nanotubes, which absorb light and create the appearance of a black that is even darker than a normal black. (Although it's no Vantablack.) The numbers and hands are unique for Panerai, a brilliant blue Super-LumiNova. Only 50 will be made.
Price: 50,000 CHF ($49,564)
A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual 'Pour Le Mérite'
This watch won’t be on your wrist until fall, but you can order it now, and fans of this brand (with deep pockets) will certainly be lining up for it. Only 50 will be made.
In this image, you can see the perpetual calendar functions, the large tourbillon, the rising moon, and the day of the week. Harder to read, until you hold the watch in your hands, is the rattrapante chronograph hands, which can split the time. (Say you had two people racing: You could time both by stopping one of the hands when your first runner finishes, then the other when the second comes through. The frozen hand can then catch up with its partner.)
H. Moser et Cie Swiss Alpine Jumping Chain
Using a movement created by sister brand Hautlence, H.Moser has updated its Swiss Alpine watch (the one that raised eyebrows for its similarity in case shape to the Apple Watch just over a year ago) to showcase more of the horology behind the dial. The jumping hours complication shows the time in Roman numerals that rotate through the display window at top, above the retrograde minutes hand; the organ on the left side of the watch rotates once an hour. The case is white gold, and 10 pieces will be made by the end of the year.
Price: Upon request.
Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe Performance
Amid a handful of car partnerships this year at SIHH, the ongoing one between Bugatti and Parmigiani begot this handsome automatic watch. There's a large tachymeter that is scaled to track the speed of a car (that's the one with the Bugatti logo on its tail end), plus a small tachymeter near 3 o'clock that is scaled to measure the speed of a human running. (I know this is a conundrum you often run into—having to time a speeding car and a human at the same time.)
Price: 22,900 CHF
Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 1000
Montblanc has been making huge strides in its watchmaking in recent years, both at the entry-level price points and with haute horlogerie. They even won a watch of the year award in 2016. This year, the brand came out with the very handsome, sporty TimeWalker series, which will surely be popular with men who like to wear an athletic-looking watch with a suit.
A highlight of that collection is the limited edition TimeWalker Chronograph 1000, which is a chronograph that can mechanically measure time accurately to the 1000th of a second. (This is not the first time this has been done, but it's the first time I've ever been able to play with such a watch.) Using a combination of the standard chronograph hand, the small sub-dials at six o'clock, and the red dial at 12 o'clock, you can put together the time to this extraordinary level of detail.
The movement is manually wound, and you can see the power reserve at 3 o'clock. It goes up to 45 minutes because after that, if the watch is not charged, the accuracy on the chrono timekeeping decreases. There are two patents on the watch mechanism, which has 488 parts; only 18 versions will be made in titanium.
Piaget Altiplano Off-Center Tourbillon High Jewelry
Piaget's been having a lot of fun with its famous Altiplano line this year, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary. There are plenty of new colors, and dials in hard stones like opal and turquoise. And, for the first time, an Altiplano is getting a tourbillon. Here, a delicate flying tourbillon shares space with an off-center hours-and-minutes, both embedded in a hand-guillochéd dial and pressed into a new movement that's only 4.6mm thick. There are 48 baguette-cut diamonds around the bezel and more brilliant-cut diamonds throughout. I liked a lot of the interesting materials that Piaget was playing with this year (wood! peacock feathers!) but this one was simply elegant.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in Black Ceramic
Our friends at the Hodinkee watch blog called this the "hottest watch of SIHH 2017." Heat, in this case, is defined by enthusiasm among fans—it's not a radical departure for the brand, or a new complication. But the black ceramic case and bracelet, with alternating brushed matte and glossy treatments, is special. It takes 30 hours just to get the brushing on the bracelet right, because ceramic is virtually un-scratchable. It's got everything you love in a perpetual calendar: hours, minutes, day of the month, month, day of the week, even week of the year around the bezel, plus the leap year complication. But if you're one of the 100 lucky Royal Oak fans to get one on your wrist this year, it's going to be the slick case that you'll be showing off to your friends.
Vacheron Constantin Celestia
When I walked into the Vacheron booth this year, it was clear that when it came to complications, that brand was just playing on another level. Look at this watch. On the front dial you have (beyond the now-laughably simple perpetual calendar complications) sunrise and sunset indicators, an equation of time, zodiacal signs, seasons and equinoxes, a measurement of how high the tide is, a moonphase, and Sun-Earth-Moon conjunction. Oh, and that's just on the front. On the back, there's a tourbillon, power reserve indicator, and rotating celestial chart.
Do you want this watch? Too bad, you can't have it. The single version that was made was sold during SIHH. But the brand will make variations on it, and you can expect to see more thrilling watches like this light up expo floors for years to come.
Price: Unknown, but upwards of a million dollars.
Cartier Panthère de Cartier Spot Watch
Unfortunately, this image does not do this watch justice. A variation on the resurrected "panthère" line that Cartier is pushing this year, this diamond-and-white-gold-and-black-enamel timepiece was a showstopper in terms of looks. I would have stolen it if no one was looking. The line in general is simple and elegant, like a squared-off Tank with a little more energy. But the diamond-encrusted versions, which creep up towards and over the $100,000 range, were stunning. The whimsy here, along with the careful craftsmanship, are emblematic of how Cartier is continuing to innovate while honoring their core lines.
And yes, panthers don't have very visible spots, but koala bears aren't bears, and you'd take home one of those in a heartbeat so just lay off and get someone to buy you this watch.
Price: Upon request.