Hiren Kumar Bose on the watches launched at SIHH and similar events at Geneva which challenge tradition, use innovative materials and celebrate the past
MONTBLANC Time Walker Manufacture Chronograph
Created in the brand’s Minerva manufacture in Villeret, known for high-quality pieces that measure brief intervals of time with great precision, the TimeWalker boasts both heritage and technical mastery. The chronograph’s “panda” and “reverse panda” dials, named for their black and white counters and backgrounds, and became motor racing icons in the 1960s and ’70s. This year Montblanc honours the collection’s history by revealing two new “reverse panda” TimeWalker Chronographs in 41mm and 43mm, which feature, respectively, satin-finished lugs for a smooth line and a semi-skeletonised look.
PIAGET Altiplano Tourbillon 41mm
Limited to 8 pieces, the brand puts its gem-setting skills on display with the Altiplano Tourbillon 41mm, a vision of pink gold, blue meteorite and diamonds that evokes the dreamlike beauty of outer space. Twenty-three brilliant diamonds encircle the blue meteorite dial, which features the distinctive Widmanstätten patterns typical of iron meteorites. The case is in 18-ct white gold set with 48 baguette-cut diamonds and 266 brilliant-cut diamonds with a lapis lazuli marquetry dial. The clasp is set with 24 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 0.05 ct). It houses the in-house Piaget 670P ultra-thin, hand-wound mechanical movement.
CARTIER Tonneau’s “Collection Prive”
The barrel-shaped Tonneau is one of Cartier’s oldest designs and is re-interpreted this year as a simple, hand-wound, two-hand watch and as a “dual time” model with twin dials that can be individually set using independent crowns. Each model—fitted with the new 1917 MC Manufacture calibre—is available in pink gold or platinum and limited to 100 pieces. Roman numerals, a rail track, a cabochon on the winding crown, leather strap, screws on the lugs – the codes of Cartier watchmaking are all there. The watch is undeniably true to the original 1906 model, even though everything has been reworked to fulfil modern-day demands such as ensuring the watch is perfectly water-resistant.
GREUBEL FORSEY Art Piece Edition Historique
The 44 mm-cased watch houses a new movement with a variation on the theme of the Double Tourbillon 30°: a mechanism designed to enable the balance wheel to oscillate consistently in all planes ensuring maximum precision. The new 475-part hand-wound movement boasts a 72-hour power reserve with optimal chronometric performance, ensured by two series-coupled fast rotating barrels. The most eye-catching aspect of all is the multilevel construction that opens up whole new vistas. The gaze is first drawn to the Double Tourbillon 30° majestically set against a royal blue background, with the flat black polished bridge and hand-bevelled and open-worked cage pillars. It is a veritable sculpture in motion, with its inner tourbillon inclined at a 30° angle performing one rotation per minute and its outer tourbillon completing a revolution in four minutes. The small seconds’ dial is positioned on the same level, between 10 and 11 o’clock. Lifted onto a significantly higher plane, the power-reserve indication bears large Arabic numerals and a blued steel hand. Higher still, at 2 o’clock, the offset hours/minutes subdial has been replaced with a daring titanium dome. The hand-punched background entirely engraved with the finely polished Greubel Forsey key values. The hours are discreetly displayed by a red hand on a separate rotating ring, while the minutes appear on request through an aperture thanks to a simple press on the crown-fitted pusher. The caseback also offers a most original design, a rear view of the Double Tourbillon 30° surrounded by the barrel bridge where one can admire the jewels in gold chatons and the hand-polished countersinks, completed by the relief-engraved signatures of Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey. Within the strictly limited 33-piece edition, the first 11 Art Piece Edition Historique timepieces are to be made in platinum and the 22 subsequent ones in different materials.
H. MOSER & CIE. Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black
Two high complications in an effortlessly minimalist smart watch-looking timepiece, the watch foregoes numerals, indexes or any other means of reading time off the hands of a watch is nothing new to this Schaffhausen brand, and delivering an impish commentary on the watch business is one of its trademark moves, both of which are enshrined in the latest Alp watch which features a one-minute flying tourbillon on its glossy black dial and nothing else. To tell the time, you must rely on the chiming function that sounds rather than shows the time of day. The glossy black dial features a one-minute flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock. To find out the time, you need to use your ears, just like the pre-electricity days when people had to use minute repeaters to discover the time when it was too dark to see.
IWC Big Pilot Spitfire
This summer, a restored 1943 Spitfire with a silver-chrome finish will leave London on a round-the-world flight covering more than 43,000 km and 30 countries. The adventure was born from two Spitfire training pilots and supported from IWC. To commemorate the project, IWC has created the Big Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition “The Longest Flight”. It’s available in just 250 pieces and combines a patented IWC Timezoner mechanism along with an in-house movement. The watch features a 46-mm stainless steel case, protected against magnetism and is water resistant up to 60-metres. Elsewhere in the Spitfire range sits the Pilot’s watch Chronograph Spitfire – now introduced in a 41-mm case. The self-winding movement now comes in bronze, along with a complementary khaki-green dial.
HUBLOT Big Bang Yellow Sapphire 42mm
After transparent, smoked black, red and blue, Hublot is inviting a new primary colour into its colour chart: yellow. To give the sapphire its solar hue, Hublot fused copper with aluminium oxide. This coloured sapphire conserves all of its initial properties as the most scratch-resistant and transparent material; one of the hardest that exists. It is the first time in the history of watchmaking that sapphire has been coloured yellow. It’s a watch that is as hard and scratch-resistant as diamond and as light as titanium, 107 g on the wrist. Absolute transparency dressed by the sparkle of a solar yellow that extends all the way to its natural rubber bracelet lined with the colour yellow. Released in only 100 pieces, the watch houses a self-winding skeleton chronograph movement, entirely “Hublotised” in its architecture and its finishing, from the legendary Zenith El Primero calibre.
VACHERON CONSTANTIN Traditionelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar
Given calendar indications require less energy to keep them running, why not enable the watch to switch over to a low-energy mode to keep the calendar ticking over while the timekeeping goes dormant? Vacheron Constantin addresses this issue in its perpetual calendar avatar. The Twin Beat’s name comes from its two escapements, each fed by the same mainspring (a watch’s power source), but each with its own oscillating frequency that the user can switch between. In Active mode, with the 5Hz (36,000 vibrations per hour) escapement running and normal timekeeping in play, the watch will run for four days. But in Standby mode, the other escapement is activated with an escapement of just 1.5Hz (10,800 vph) – enough to keep the calendar running for a whopping 65 days. Vacheron Constantin has patents pending on the movement, which is also relatively thin, despite the complexity of what’s inside it, making the watch as sleek and wearable as any other perpetual.
TAG HEUER Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph
This 45mm watch is first to feature a new hairspring made from a carbon composite developed specifically for the purpose unlike the nickel-iron alloy Elinvar presently in use. Cooked up in a chemical reactor machine within TAG’s in-house research unit, the spirals are formed from carbon nanotube molecules to an exact geometry, a process that takes a couple of hours. The resulting hairsprings are considerably lighter than traditional springs, are non-magnetic, and require no fine-tuning by a watchmaker. The composite is also considerably more elastic – and therefore shockproof – than silicon, a material a handful of brands have begun using for nano-engineered hairsprings, and rather less costly to produce. This game-changing component is unveiled in a futuristic-looking watch, the Heuer 02T with chronograph and high-tech tourbillon, whose dial features a motif inspired by the microscopic hexagonal pattern of the carbon nanotubes.
JAEGER-LECOULTRE Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetual
It’s the fifth JLC model to feature a gyroscopic tourbillon tumbling away at its core and the grandest of the lot, for it includes a perpetual calendar indication and a minute repeater that, rather than the succession of two-note dings found on “normal” minute repeaters, chimes out the Westminster Quarters, the four-note melodies sounded by Big Ben. The remarkable thing about this watch – which packs in over 1,050 components, including a silence-reduction mechanism “to optimise melody cadence” for the repeater, a one-minute constant-force mechanism to ensure constant energy through the movement, crystal gongs for the repeater, and a jumping minute hand for extra precision – is just how wearable it is. Multi-axis tourbillons rotating in three dimensions tend to be enormous, but this one isn’t. Jaeger-LeCoultre has put painstaking research into ways to reduce the size of complex mechanisms, and, at 43mm across, this white-gold piece is no bigger than plenty of regular watches.
PANERAI Submersible BMG Tech
Panerai has been leading the way in pursuing new case materials for its watches recently, and this diving watch brings together two different high-tech substances. The 47mm case is made from BMG-Tech: a bulk metallic glass alloy that’s something of a superhero material thanks to its ‘chaotic’ structure, with superior strength and high resistance to corrosion, shocks and magnetism. The turning dive bezel, meanwhile, is made from carbotech, a tiger-striped variant of carbon fibre in which Panerai has been finding increasing mileage thanks to that aforementioned tiger-stripe pattern. In other words, there’s pretty much nothing this watch can’t endure, and it’ll look very good doing it.
ZENITH EL Primero 50th Anniversary Set
Marking the 50th anniversary of its definitive movement – the El Primero chronograph of 1969 – Zenith has unveiled a three-piece limited edition set that is made up of the most important El Primero-based watches. The three-piece set is bookended by the most basic and the most advanced El Primero, all sharing the signature tricolour chronograph registers. The El Primero A386 Revival, a remake of the original of 1969, with a 38mm steel case and the El Primero 400 movement inside. The only concession to modernity is the sapphire display back that shows of the movement. In contrast, the Defy El Primero 21 takes the movement to a new level. The El Primero 9004 inside has twin escapements, one running at 36,000 beats per hour for the time, and the other running at 360,000 beats per hour for the 1/100th of a second chronograph. It’s in a 44mm brushed titanium case with a partially open-worked dial to reveal some of the chronograph mechanism. But arguably the most significant watch of all is the Chronomaster 2 El Primero, powered by the El Primero 3600, upgraded in construction and function. It still retains the 36,000 beats per hour frequency and column wheel, but the chronograph has been redesigned as a true 1/10th of a second chronograph, incorporating the chronograph mechanism first developed for the El Primero Striking 10th of 2011. It features a central hand that makes one revolution every 10 seconds, a 30-minute register at six o’clock and the 60-second register at three. But the base movement has also been upgraded with a longer, 60-hour power reserve, as well as a hacking seconds for more precise time-setting.