Okay, some of the cobwebs have cleared from my brain, so let’s get back into the mix and finish this up, shall we?
It’s easy to dismiss Greubel Forsey as a brand dedicated to Russian oligarchs and other shady characters looking to stash ill-gotten gains in assets that can’t easily be traced or reclaimed, but to do so would be to turn a blind eye to the absolute pinnacle of haute holorgerie. Yes, their prices are eye-watering to mere mortals, but when you actually dig in and see just what it is that Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey are bringing to the table, it all starts to make sense.
This year they decided to bring the lighting and the thunder to the table in the form of their Grande Sonnerie, which took at total of eleven years to go from inception to production. The end result is nothing short of stunning, though as with all Greubel Forsey creations, polarizing too. To wit, the watch hews to GF’s idiosyncratic, asymmetrical design language, with the tourbillon carriage protruding from the side of the titanium case at 8 o’clock. Yes, you read that correctly. The case of this $1,000,000.00 timepiece is crafted from grade 5 titanium. While it’s a foregone conclusion that more noble metals will be offered down the road, GF maintains that titanium produces the best sound. We’re in no position to argue.
As you can see from the images above and below, GF more than earns their stripes when it comes to movement finishing, and trust us when we say that every one of the 935 pieces that make up the engine of the Grande Sonnerie are lavished with equal and intense care.
This is the sort of thing that has you wondering just how much your various organs will bring on the black market. In my case, my liver is barely worth an Invicta, but I’ve still got a couple of kidneys, so all isn’t lost. Stephen, you can expect a call soon.
(Please Note: due to our sample piece being a prototype, we were unable to photograph the dial side. As soon as the finished product visits New York, we’ll bring you some proper Atom Moore Macro shots.)
We also got hands on with the Signature 1, their first non-tourbillon piece, and the award-winning Vision Tourbillon 24 Secondes, because, why not.
Entry level? Yeah, sure.
Believe it or not, but that dome housing the tourbillon carriage doesn’t impact the wearability of the watch one bit. Really.
While Ulysse Nardin may be new to SIHH, the brand is certainly not new to the game. Founded in 1846 in Le Locle, Switzerland, the brand has been in almost continual production since, with a strong focus on nautical-themed watches and haute horlogerie pieces. This year was no different, with the introduction of an ingenious regatta timer and a new Freak concept piece.
The Regatta Timer is not merely a redialed chronograph, but a a true yacht timer, in that it can be set to count down to the race start – programmable from 1 to 10 minutes – and then immediately begin recording elapsed time. Trust us, this is not as easy as it sounds; the in-house UN-155 movement requires 650 parts to accomplish this task.
The design draws heavily from UN’s Maxi-Marine line of watches, though updated with a heavily scalloped bezel that adds some visual heft to the proceedings. The roman numerals on the dial may be a bit much, but overall the design fits with the mission brief. If forced to chose between this and the Rolex Yacht-Master II, we’re Team Ulysse Nardin.
As you probably gathered from the name, the Freak Innovision 2 is the second Innovision to fly under the Freak banner. For those who are unaware, the Freak was first introduced over 15 years ago, with its novel conceit being that the entire going train rotates once every hour, which allowed chief designer, Ludwig Oechslin to slap an arrow on the end of the whole shebang, and – boom – you have an hour hand.
The Innovision 2 one ups its predecessor by adding a Dual Constant Escapement, which complements its extensive use of silicon, which was one of he defining characteristics of the original.
The floating bridge is made from glass, which UN assures is is more than up to the task at hand. Fortunately for them, we’ll probably never have the chance to put it to the test.
Let me get this out of the way right now: We love Ressence. Period. Hard stop. It’s hard to reinvent the wheel in an industry like this, and while there are plenty of brands out there that are coming up with absolutely psychobilly-cool pieces of haute horlogerie, many come across as gimmicky, and most cost as much as a McMansion in the suburbs of Des Moines. With Ressence, however, founder Benoit Mintiens has created an entirely new way to tell time that is as intuitive as it is original. The best part? The overall aesthetic is wearable on a daily basis, and while he’ll never be accused of giving them away, the working rich can afford to put one on their wrists and not worry about whether or not their kids will still go to college.
The big news this year, aside from the fact that Ressence is at SIHH – this is their first time attending the show – is the Type 1 Squared. While it retains the dial layout and movement from the groundbreaking Type 1, it’s thinner, features an elegantly finished cushion-style case, and thanks to a pivoting handle on the case back, it’s now much easer to set the time.
Naturally, the insanely cool oil-filled Type 3 was on hand, as well as the Type 5 diver.
We still have fond memories of our visit to Ressence’s offices in Antwerp, and seeing Benoit in Geneva just makes us want to get back there and see what new sorcery he has brewing. (There was something rather cool on-hand that we aren’t able to show you just yet, but it’s probably enough to say it’s amazing and I want it.)
How exactly does one describe MB&F, or it’s eccentric founder, Maximillian Busser, in a way that does the brand and the man behind the brand justice? Hell if we know, but the watches that spring forth from collective minds of Max B and his friends are creative masterpieces that completely embody his motto, “The Creative Adult Is The Child Who Survived”. At once engaging and enraging, they are as much conversation pieces as they are timepieces, and this year’s debut, the Horological Machine No. 7 Aquapod, does nothing to change this.
Excepting the fact that the Aquapod was designed by prolific watchmaker and designer, Eric Giroud, it’s that rare MB&F that eschews the “friends” bit and was executed almost entirely in-house under the aegis of Max and his merry band of horological miscreants. The Aquapod’s organic design is meant to evoke a jellyfish, with the tourbillon sitting in the “bell”, while the flip side reveals a multi-tentacled rotor reminiscent of the tendrils that float beneath.
To answer your question, no, this is not a true dive watch. With a maximum depth rating of 50M, the Aquapod is best left to a quick jump off the back of one’s yacht in Monaco’s harbor as opposed to a wreck dive on the Andria Doria. That said, the rotating timing bezel, which looks as though it was lifted in whole off of a Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms (a watch you could wreck dive on the Andrea Doria with), does in fact rotate and therefore can be used to keep track of bottom time in the custom in-ground guinite swimming pool at your country estate.
Also, it glows in the dark, thanks to a healthy does of AGT (Ambient Glow Technology):
Clearly MB&F was paying attention when doing their collabs with another RedBar favorite, James Thompson of Black Badger fame. This is a good thing.
The HM7 Aquapod will be available in a series of 33 in grade 5 titanium and 66 in 18K red gold. The price? Expensive.
As with MB&F, Urwerk doesn’t create watches so much as it does wrist-borne conversation pieces that also happen to tell the time. This year, which marks their 20th anniversary, they came correct with a piece that combines the best elements of the UR-110 Torpedo and the classic UR-103.3, which just so happen to be two of my all-time favorite watches from the brand.
The new UR-T8 is the first Urwerk to feature a rotating case, which is deliberately reminiscent of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s iconic Reverso.
When fully rotated, the trademark “satellite” movement is protected by a faceted titanium shield that recalls the reptilian finish of last year’s UR-105 T-Rex. As with all of Felix Baumgartner’s and Martin Frei’s pieces, this is not a watch for introverts – regardless of which side you happen to be wearing it on.
Good thing I’m not an introvert, huh?
Next up, a field trip to FP Journe’s manufacture in the heart of Geneva for the introduction of a rather important piece for the brand.
(Photos courtesy of Atom Moore)