Top ten watches at SIHH 2015

SIHH (19-23 January 2015) is the first major watch show of the year, and even though it includes just 16 brands, all part of the Richemont group, it provides some indications on trends and developments in the watch industry. The brands exhibiting at SIHH were A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Greubel Forsey, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Panerai, Parmigiani Fleurier, Piaget, Ralph Lauren, Richard Mille, Roger Dubuis, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Vacheron Constantin.

The major themes this year were an astronomical/astral feel, incorporating some aspect of space (for example, meteorites) or the view of the earth as seen from space; the annual calendar; minute repeaters; skeletonized watches; curved strap spring-bars; and a trend linked to marketing, highlighting a certain designer or another personality within the respective maison. More on the marketing aspect in another post.

In this top ten (in actual fact, 12), I’ve tried to select watches that seemed to me particularly interesting and original. The choice is particularly difficult for a few brands whose depth and range of new products were extraordinary, such as Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin. All in all there were some fantastic pieces with some completely new ideas. The list below is in alphabetical order of brands.

1. A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
What’s new? It’s a minute repeater that doesn’t sound the hours, quarters and minutes (as is the case for most minute repeaters), but rather hours, tens of minutes and minutes, a system perfectly suited to the digital time display. It has a mechanism that ensures that the digital display always corresponds to what the watch is chiming, even when the displayed minute expires while the watch is chiming. The chimes are activated by a user-friendly button rather than the normal slider. The watch – unusually for a minute repeater – is water resistant to 300 metres. The only downside to this is that the chimes have a very low volume. Read more here.

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2. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept RD#1
What’s new? It’s a minute repeater that you can really hear, and whose sound is optimal when the watch is worn on the wrist. It’s a product of pure research, eight years’ commitment to the problem of getting the sound out of a waterproof, therefore airtight, watch. It’s also a tourbillon and a chronograph. Read more here.

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3. Baume & Mercier 43 mm Clifton Automatic Big Date and Power Reserve
What’s new? Baume & Mercier are about affordable luxury, and the Clifton Automatic Big Date and Power Reserve, although not the lowest-priced automatic watch in this year’s range by the brand, is a good-looking piece with an attractive dial, a useful extra function in the form of power reserve at 6 o’clock, and the strap with curved spring bars adding extra refinement. Read more here.

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4. Cartier Clé de Cartier
What’s new? The brand highlighted the taut, flowing curves in the new case design of Clé de Cartier, but the principal new feature is the “Clé,” in this case the crown, which is rectangular and not circular. So you don’t have to fight with it using fingernails to pull it out. You just have to rotate it, which brings its extremities outside the thickness of the watchcase and so it’s easy to pull out, after which you can adjust time and date as normal. Once you’re done, just push back in and then rotate to the final position. The processes are accompanied by gentle clicks that provide an audio clue to what you are doing.

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5. IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Annual Calendar
What’s new? The annual calendar format, in three windows on the same circular segment at the top of the dial, a beautiful and intriguing solution. Other nice design features are the symmetry attained by placing the power reserve subdial opposite the small seconds, the easy adjustment of all functions – time, day, date, month – from the crown, and the curved spring bars for the strap that give the case a sense of compact perfection. Read more here.

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6. Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Unique Travel Time
What’s new? An original dial layout, with the second time zone indicated on the left-hand subdial with jumping hours and a minute hand. This enables all time zones of the world to be indicated, including the fractional time zones in which the difference is not to the nearest hour, but rather half or quarter-hour. The bottom subdial shows a view of the earth from above the north pole, and it rotates when you adjust the second time zone display, so that it comprises a day-night indicator. Read more here.

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7. Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama
What’s new? A democratic approach to GMT, making the watch perfectly usable for people in the southern hemisphere as well as the northern. Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama is the theme not only for this watch, but for much of Montblanc’s new collection. The two hemispheres at thye bottom of the watch show the earth seen from above the north pole, and below the south pole, respectively, and so the watch displays local time (on the hands), the home time on the small compass-rose-like subdial at the bottom, and the time anywhere else in the world on the two 24-hour discs around the hemispheres. The tourbillon is a very beautiful piece of watchmaking, with cylindrical spring for better precision. Read more here.

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8. Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech
What’s new? Panerai’s watches are strongly tied to the brand’s history as supplier to the Italian Royal Navy in the 1930s and ‘40s, but this piece introduces an element of contemporary design in the form of the material, Carbotech, a carbon fibre composite with a striped appearance generated by its structure, based on thin sheets of carbon fibre. The pattern of stripes makes each watch unique in appearance. The time can be adjusted conventionally, or in increments of exactly one hour, a feature useful for travellers when they change time zone. Read more here.

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9. Piaget Altiplano Chronograph
What’s new? Yet another slimness record for Piaget, a handwound flyback chronograph with a movement 4.65 mm thick and a case 8.24 mm thick. Splendid minimalist dial design typical of the Altiplano series, with discreet but functional chronograph pushers. Read more here.

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10. Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton
What’s new? The use of timber for the bezel is unusual, based on Ralph’s vintage Bugatti’s steering wheel. The bezel is beautifully crafted with functional screws, and made from a type of wood (amboyna) that can withstand the stresses of drilling and screw-fitting without splitting. The skeletonized movement is attractive, with its contrast between black DLC and brass. Read more here.

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11. Richard Mille Tourbillon Fleur
What’s new? The beautiful automation, with a magnolia flower concealing the flying tourbillon, and opening every five minutes, the delicately-painted petals gradually unfolding while the whole flower lifts imperceptibly, by about a millimetre. Read more here.

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12. Vacheron Constantin Harmony Ultra-Thin Grand Complication Chronograph
What’s new? A new cushion-shaped case design, Harmony, and a new movement including a a system that blocks movement of the oscillating weight when the spring is already fully wound, reducing unnecessary friction and increasing the time before maintenance is necessary. It also prevents the mainspring from reaching an excessive tension: in practical terms, just the best, central parts of the watch’s power reserve are used to ensure optimum precision. Above all, a watch that looks superb from both front and back. Read more here.

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