Crisis? What crisis? Taking place from 18-22 January 2010, the Geneva watch salon, SIHH, was predicted by pessimists to be rather flat this year. But on the contrary: the 19 exhibitors from Audemars Piguet to Vacheron Constantin could look back on some good business, especially in the closing months of 2009. In particular, the boom in Asia seems endless.
Naturally, the global economic situation of recent times has had its effect. Fashion trends in the watch market veer towards more restrained timepieces: the elegant, flat wristwatch, and a retro influence, are to the fore. White and reddish-gold tones dominate, along with deep black on steel, scratch-proof ceramic and light carbonfibre are ‘in’ for 2010. The luxury watchmakers represented in Geneva know how to deal with the current economic climate: with delicacy. Here, we select some of the most exciting new pieces for 2010.
|A. Lange & Söhne|
‘Delightful clarity’ and ‘graceful proportions’ are phrases the watchmaker uses to describe the qualities of the Saxonia Annual Calendar. Meanwhile, the timepiece’s elaborate mechanical underpinnings ensure that the day of the week, the date and month are all advanced automatically, requiring a re-setting just once a year. With its precise moon-phase display and self-winding Sax-O-Mat calibre, the Saxonia is offered for 27,500 euros – in either white or red gold.
The famous Royal Oak Offshore is a prominent icon of the family factory Audemars Piguet. The ‘Grand Prix’ variant, a limited-edition watch (restricted to 1750 units), aims to capture the link between watchmaking and motor racing. It offers a blend of high-tech materials and obsession with detail: the dial resembles a dashboard, the counters its instruments, while the crown is shaped like a gear and the bezel suggests a ventilated disc brake. The price is 28,600 euros.
|Baume & Mercier|
The new Classima Executives XL chronograph is a reinterpretation of the classic round watch, but with a contemporary twist. The 42mm polished steel case partners a silver-coloured dial, while the mechanical self-winding movement drives a complete calendar: date, day and month through a window at 12 o’clock, moon phase at 6 o’clock, plus a 24-hour indicator at 9 o’clock. Priced at 3250 euros.
Cartier created a firework display with its new model line-up for the 2010 SIHH. One of the highlights, in many people’s opinion, was the manually wound Rotonde Astrotourbillon with 48-hour power reserve. The 38mm diameter, 9.01mm thick, 9451 MC calibre movement shows its balance spring through the glass and, oscillating at three Hertz, the entire tourbillon carriage circles the dial once per minute. The movement, designed by master watchmaker Carole Forestier, took five years to develop. White gold is used for the 47mm diameter case. Needless to say, such craftsmanship has its price – near enough 100,000 euros.
The Girard-Perregaux ‘1966’ collection stands for purism and elegance. In order to perfect the timeless design of this watch, the watchmaker opted for a traditional chronograph with a 30-minute counter and central second-hand. The model with 40mm red-gold case is available for 18,400 euros. Motoring enthusiasts can also use the chronograph to determine average speeds.
The Schaffhausen manufacturer’s CEO, Georges Kern, has decided that 2010 will be the “year of the Portuguese.” The origin of the classic line of IWC timepieces stretches back to the 1930s. Lovers of restrained elegance will appreciate the simple ‘Portuguese Hand-Wound 5454’ model, a stainless steel watch with just minute- and hour-hands plus a small dial at the six-o’clock position marking seconds. Measuring an oversize 44mm in diameter, it is powered by the company’s in-house 98295 calibre movement. It will cost 6500 euros.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Vallée de Joux factory buys 90 per cent of its components from Swiss factories. Jerôme Lambert, CEO of J-LC, holds these very high standards dear, so any new watch will have to be true to the company’s ‘all-Swiss’ philosophy. New at SIHH was the ‘Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire’, a 42mm, calibre 381-equipped rose-gold moon-phase watch with a 50-hour power reserve. The right-hand dial tells the current time, while the left-hand side is devoted to phases of the moon for the Northern and Southern hemispheres. A ‘jumping’ second-hand rotates the full width of the dial allowing accuracy to 1/16 second. 25,500 euros is the price of the limited (to 300 pieces) edition watch.
Aficionados interested in Montblanc’s most unusual white-gold wristwatches had better get a move on. Only 12 examples of the 195,000-euro ‘Timewriter 1 Metamorphosis’ will be made. The brainchild of two young designers, Johnny Girardin and Franck Orny, the watch is characterised by its unique ‘slider’ that can transform the dial from date to chronograph in an instant.
The last few years have seen Panerai introduce several new ‘all-Panerai’ watches that feature the company’s own movements set in its familiar, large-size, beautifully finished cases. The newest member of this family is the Calibre P.999, or P.999/1, a hand-wound movement with an impressive 60-hour power reserve. The 27mm-diameter balance spring oscillates 21,600 times per hour – equivalent to a frequency of three Hertz. The new watch pictured here is part of the ‘Radiomir Historic’ collection, is 42mm wide and available in stainless steel, brushed titanium or 18ct pink gold. A simple, hand-wound Panerai with just a small second-hand, the steel version costs 4900 euros.
Parmigiani Fleurier’s partnership with Bugatti goes back to 2001 - the time of the extravagant Model 370. The latest ‘Atalante Flyback’ chronograph is another link with the Franco-Italian car maker, taking its name, as it does, from the legendary Type 57SC sports car of the 1930s. The watch is powered by the brand’s first automatic fly-back chronograph movement, the Calibre PF 335. The ‘pushers’ are based on the left-hand side of the watch – the most ergonomically suitable position for thumb-actuation. Luxury brand Hermès supplies the fine leather bracelet.
Luxury jeweller Piaget is considered one of the world’s pioneers of ultra-thin wristwatches. In 1960 it launched the Calibre 12 P Microrotor – an automatic movement just 2.3mm thick. At the end of the 20th Century the company discontinued it but, in 2010, 50 years on from the original, Piaget has brought another super-slim movement to the world stage: the 2.35mm-thick Calibre 1208P. Similar to its forebear, the 1208P can be found in the Piaget ‘Altiplano’, an elegant dress watch carrying the characteristic, unusually placed, small second-hand. From 34mm in 1960, to 43mm in 2010, the slim Piaget carries a very 21st Century price tag: 13,900 euros in pink gold.
After 10 years of making sizeable, innovative, high-tech watches for sportsmen, the French brand Richard Mille announced the RM017 Ultra Thin Tourbillon at SIHH 2010. Well known for its association with motorsport via the Le Mans Classic, Richard Mille has developed the familiar lozenge-shaped case into a more traditional rectangle, just 8.7mm in height and more akin to a dress watch than previously. Carbonfibre is used in the baseplate of the manually wound watch – surely another reason for techno-freaks to love the new Richard Mille.
The flagship of the youngest member of the Richemont Group (which shows solely its own, or closely associated, brands at Geneva) is the Roger Dubois ‘Excalibur’. A half-million euros is the price of the 45mm pink-gold tourbillon watch with a repeater that can sound on the hour, quarter hour or minute. The dial is cut away to reveal not only the tourbillon but also the fine movement with two platinum winding rotors.
Vacheron Constantin is another ‘grand house’ from Geneva, well known for its superb movements which include – like Piaget – some super-slim, classically simple examples of watchmaking. The latest ‘Patrimony Traditionnelle Calibre 2253’, however, is a 32mm ‘complication’ in platinum with a tourbillon, four mainspring barrels giving an extraordinary 14 days' power supply, a perpetual calendar, the variation in apparent solar time and mean solar time, and a sunset/sunrise indicator based on the owner’s location. Only 10 examples in platinum will be made, at a cost of 357,000 euros each.
|Absent from SIHH: Hublot|
Hublot will be at the Baselworld exhibition, Basel, from March 18 – 25. Classic Driver readers will be interested, though, in the latest developments from the Swiss brand under the direction of its CEO, the effervescent Jean Claude Biver. This year, Hublot will partner the Swiss America’s Cup challenger Alinghi. Naturally enough, there's a special Hublot ‘King Power Alinghi’: a 48mm masterpiece of black carbon composite material, India rubber, black SuperLuminova, resin and titanium, waterproof to 10Atm. The skeleton chronograph is made of 252 components.
Text: Classic Driver
Photos: The Brands
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