by Angus Davies, www.escapementmagazine.com
Recently, journalists and retailers arrived en-masse in Geneva for the annual Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, commonly referred to as SIHH.
In 2013, approximately 12,500 visitors descended on the watch fair, with around 10% of these guests being accredited journalists. This year felt busier than ever.
The event is different from Baselworld with only 16 brands exhibiting, the majority of which belong to the Richemont Group. Sadly, for many watch enthusiasts, it is closed to the general public and remains strictly by invitation only.
Common themes at SIHH
It seems that 2014 was the year of the ultra-thin watch with Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin all vying to claim the accolade of being the “world’s thinnest”. The problem with pursuing records is that by their very nature, they have a short shelf-life. However, beyond the numbers, all three brands delivered elegant timepieces which will have lasting appeal owing to sublime styling and lithe profiles.
Another notable theme was the proliferation of diver’s watches. Audemars Piguet delivered an eye-catching Royal Oak Offshore in an unusual white hue, while Cartier dazzled with its new range, the Calibre de Cartier Diver watch. However, nobody released more new diver’s watches than IWC, whose revised Aquatimer collection was the focal point for the Schaffhausen-based brand.
Prices of many watches seem to have increased of late. One brand which appeared to buck this trend was Montblanc, who caused a stir with its new Meisterstück Heritage Collection. In particular, the stainless steel perpetual calendar, with a retail price of only €10,000, seemed to be the biggest talking point.
In recent times we have seen dragons and snakes adorn watches, intended to appeal to buyers in Shanghai and Beijing. As concerns increase of the Chinese economy slowing down, it appears that attention is switching to Brazil. I have no doubt, in the near future, brands will start creating special timepieces to target the desires of buyers in this economically buoyant South American country.
A few of my personal favourites
There were many models which caught my attention and, if I had copious amounts of promissory notes, I could have readily purchased several watches. The following is a mere assiette of horological delicacies to induce salivation.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph – the new “Navy”
The “Navy” and “Safari” are two 42mm timepieces from the AP Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph range, that have won the hearts of legions of watch lovers. Bold styling, the octagonal bezel and the “Méga Tapisserie” dial have never ceased appealing to red-blooded men seeking a masculine sportswatch.
It was therefore surprising to hear that AP had revisited the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph, replacing the former 26170 reference with a new model the 26470. Arguably, this is a brave step to take when the existing models continue to be in much demand, but I am pleased to report the result of the makeover is very successful.
The new range of six models, including a new “Navy” and “Safari”, feature subtle changes to the crown and pushers. These are now made of scratch-proof ceramic, replacing the former rubber items, and look better, delivering a slightly matt-sheen.
The solid caseback of the 26170 was one area that previously left me frustrated. The thought of matchless finishing residing in the case, including an exquisitely engraved 22-carat oscillating weight hidden from view, left me feeling deprived. Audemars Piguet has now fitted an exhibition caseback to all versions of the 26470 and the resultant vista is a masterpiece to savour.
I have often found it difficult to choose between the allure of the “Safari”, and its sibling, the “Navy”. The decision is made no easier with the latest versions, but on balance, I think the “Navy” just edges ahead, with its new blue dial and matching rubber strap.
Calibre de Cartier Diver Watch – in pink gold on a rubber bracelet
Like many who find diver’s watches appealing, I have little compunction to brave hostile waters. My rationale for liking these watches is based on their legible displays and robust mien.
Cartier, a brand I personally associate with dress watches and fine jewellery, has created a stunning new diver’s watch. The model is available on either a rubber strap or bracelet. Additional choice is provided for prospective buyers with steel, pink gold and bi-metallic versions on offer.
My personal favourite is the pink gold model, delivered on a very comfortable rubber strap. The 42 mm case seemed perfect when placed on my arm and the ADLC bezel turns anti-clockwise with a, smile-inducing, positive action.
Should you choose to venture into deep waters, the watch meets the requirements of ISO 6425 and has a maximum water resistance of 300 metres.
IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Ref. IW376802
The Aquatimer can trace its origins to 1967, when the first model to bear this name was launched. In 2009, IWC revisited the collection and the models have looked fresh and appealing ever since. I was therefore amazed to hear the brand was restyling the Aquatimer again. While some may argue, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”, IWC has pulled off a master stroke, as the new 2014 collection looks superb.
The brand has incorporated the “IWC bracelet quick-change” system across the range, allowing wearers to easily swap straps for bracelets and vice versa. Similar systems have been available from Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre and it is good to see another brand adopting this feature.
The “external / internal rotating bezel” is simple to operate. Turn the external bezel anti-clockwise and it will simultaneously rotate the inner bezel, courtesy of a pinion and wheel within the case. However, turn the external bezel clockwise and the inner bezel will not move as the inner drive pinion won’t engage with the internal bezel. The new IWC SafeDive system ensures that if the external bezel is accidentally moved anti-clockwise, the indicated start time will be less than the planned dive time, ensuring the wearer does spend too long underwater.
The Aquatimer collection includes a broad range of models and there are several which appeal to me. In particular, I liked the stainless steel chronograph, presented on a bracelet with a silver-plated dial. It has a clean, simple to interpret display and a robust appearance which I found particularly agreeable.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date ref. 1282510
“Grace” and “decorum” are two words which readily spring to mind when admiring the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date. This timepiece has a 40 mm case diameter and is just 7.45 mm in height.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has over 180 years experience creating fine watches and is known for being a “manufacture”. Based in Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux, over the years it has supplied many other prestigious haute horlogerie brands with movements. It is known for its prowess at creating complicated and ultra-thin calibres.
The Calibre 899 delivers peerless craftsmanship in a slim form, with a thickness of only 3.30 mm. The self-winding movement contains 219 components and is finished to a extremely high standard.
However, it is the simple expression of hours, minutes, seconds and date which I find particularly engaging. It eschews flamboyant adornment, earning respect with refined aesthetics, absent of the extraneous or vulgar.
The predicament of being a lover of horology is that there is often much temptation to encourage the purchase of “just one more” timepiece and I found myself being frequently seduced at SIHH this year.
Indeed, with a bewildering choice of new timepieces being shown at SIHH and more to come at the forthcoming Baselworld, it has never been a better time to be a watch addict.
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