Once more I find myself having fallen into the very real trap of SIHH extracurriculars, having drunk too much at the Jaeger-LeCoultre gala, and then chasing it with more time spent than was prudent at the 8th floor suite at the President Wilson. Sooner or later I’ll learn my lesson, but for now let’s just power through the day, shall we?
Day 2 at SIHH sees journalists walking with a more confident gait now that the rhythm of the show has been acclimated to. For my part, while I was definitely feeling the effects of zero sleep and maximum partying, heading through security at the PalExpo felt “right”, for lack of a better word. After meeting up with the team and getting a couple of espressos in the tank, it was time to shake off the cobwebs and get to work.
Our first stop of the day was with Montblanc, and while I had already seen the updated TimeWalkers, with their panda dials and in-house movements, knowing how the brand operates, it was a fair bet that there was plenty more up their sleeves. Just how much more was lurking in those voluminous folds, however, shocked even me.
Every year the Montblanc booth is a bustling hive of activity that spills out onto the show promenade. It’s a constant whirl of journalists, retailers and the odd celebrity or three, which can make it a challenging place to hold an appointment. This year seemed even busier than usual, but whatever – we have a job to do here.
While we were waiting for our guided tour through the 2018 novelties we started to peruse the selection of TimeWalkers in the vitrines, when none other than Davide Cerrato, Montblanc’s head of design and watchmaking snuck up behind us and proceeded to say hello. As much as I’d like to say that I enjoy a special relationship with the man owing to my deep experience in the industry and encyclopedic knowledge of horology, the fact of the matter is that he’s a ridiculously nice person who’s open to meeting any and all and sharing with them his considerable enthusiasm for his job. On his wrists – yes, he can’t be limited to wearing just one watch – were a TimeWalker chronograph on one of the new bund-inspired straps and a new 1858 Geosphere in stainless steel.
The 1858 Geosphere is the watch to keep an eye on this year, and given that I had studiously avoided any press releases from the manufacture after having seen the TimeWalkers – what can I say, I like to be surprised – it marked my first Spanish Inquisition moment of the show (“no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!”). I can’t rightly say why I was so taken off guard with it, but I was, and in a good way. The case is chunky, but not overly large; the dial is busy, but instantly readable once you know what you’re looking at; and taken as a whole, it’s a handsome timepiece with a solid a tool watch vibe. The raison d’être of the 1858 Geosphere are the two rotating dials at 12 and 6 o’clock respectively that tell the wearer the time in both the northern and southern hemispheres, while another subdial at 9 o’clock displays the hours for a second timezone. Upon closer inspection, one might notice a series of red dots spread out in a seemingly random fashion across the upper and lower hemisphere dials – there’s actually a method to their madness. Davide told us, with his trademark twinkle in his eye, that they mark the highest peak on each continent. Dunno about the rest of you, but I love it when watch designers hide Easter eggs in their watches. The 1858 Geosphere is offered in stainless steel, as well as in bronze in a limited series of 1858 pieces.
After bidding adieu to Davide and the controlled chaos of the Montblanc booth, we had a moment to sit and grab another espresso before heading over to a “smart lunch” with Girard-Perregaux CEO Antonio Calce. Even though we had only endured one appointment, the veteran SIHH-goer is a soldier who knows the value of getting a bit of rest wherever and whenever possible. After being joined by Jason Heaton and Watchonista honcho, Alexander Friedman, we marched into the G-P booth, whereupon we were hustled up a ramp to a second floor auditorium that resembled a planetarium, with a giant domed screen looming above us in the dark. After enduring several minutes of a dizzying kaleidoscope of imagery related to the manufacture and their watches, we were marched back downstairs to an intimate one-on-one with Mssr. Calce where he related to the assembled group of journalists the challenges facing the watch industry and how G-P was confronting and, yes, surmounting them. It was a remarkably candid discussion, and a refreshing one coming as it did from the CEO of a major brand. Of course, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, given that he chased the talk with hands-on session with their haute horlogerie Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon. What can I say, the guy really knows how to exit with a bang. (Or is that chime?)
From G-P, it was time to hustle on over to Van Cleef & Arpels where we got up close and personal with the LadyArples Planetarium. Thanks to its Christiaan van der Klaauw-designed movement, the Planetarium accurately displays the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth and yes, even the moon, while a shooting start circling the outer edge of the dial indicates the time. This may be a familiar complication to those who are familiar with van der Klaauw’s work,lem me tell you, it’s stunning to behold in person. That said, the watch that really got me in the feels was the Midnight Zodiac Lumineux, which sports a novel electro-mechanical generator that powers between four to six tiny LEDs which illuminate one of the twelve zodiac constellations, as depicted by equally tiny translucent enamel beads, at the press of a button. It’s ingenious, whimsical, and even slightly irreverent. (Make mine the Libra version.)
For Audemars Piguet this year, the big story was the introduction of a bi-metallic Royal Oak Extra-Thin (aka “Jumbo). Referred to internally as the “IP”, thanks to its reference number, this new addition to the AP family is crafted in titanium and platinum, with a highly polished bezel and contrasting polished links. It positively pops on the wrist, while the dial, rendered in the same petit-tapissiere pattern as the 40th Anniversary Jumbo, does the same with a gradient blue anodizing that fades to charcoal towards the rehaut. In a nutshell, it’s gorgeous. It’s also gonna be pretty damn hard to put one on your wrist, at least for the first year of production, as the current allocation is pretty much all spoken for.
The Offshore Divers got hit with yet another wacky color treatment, with the wildest of the lot being a deep purple version, exclusive to the Geneva boutique, which Lamdin immediately dubbed “The Grimace”. I know that folks are pretty divided over these yearly updates to the wildly popular Diver collection, but I’ve gotta admit that in person they’re cool as heck. I mean, yeah, none of them – there’s also turquoise, beige and olive drab – would really qualify as an “only watch”, but for the well-heeled collector who already has their bases covered with an extensive stable of watches, any one of these would make one helluva summer watch for vacationing in St. Barts.
Equally, if not slightly more divisive, is the “Rambo Camo” Offshore Chronograph, which sports a green ceramic bezel, pushers and crown; a beige dial; and, to complete the theme, a camouflage-patterend strap. I’ve gotta say, it’s an absolutely ridiculous watch that shouldn’t work at all, and I want one right now. Deep down I know that I should be smarter than this, but dammit, AP knows what they’re doing here. Ugh.
The other big story is the RD#2, their ground-breaking 6.3mm thin automatic perpetual calendar (yes, you heard right, it’s actually thinner than a Jumbo, which I was able to verify in person, as I was wearing mine when they handed it over). I’m not going to bother going into the how and why of the movement – that’s what Hodinkee is for – but suffice to say that we’ll be seeing a production version before long. Will you be able to afford one? Probably not, but that’s beside the point. It’s insane, but this is what happens when you have a genius like Giulio Papi on your payroll.
From AP it was back over to G-P to get up close and personal with the new additions to the Laureato family. This year they came correct with a smaller 38mm ceramic three-hander and a series of chronographs, my favorite of which sported a panda dial in conjunction with their familiar clou-de-paris treatment. I know that folks can be rough on the Laureato, claiming that it can’t sit at the table with the cool kids from AP, PP and VC, but I don’t buy that for one second. The collection has its roots in the 70s, just like the others, and when you place the side-by-side, it comes into its own with design elements that are unique to it alone. Whatever. I’ve always liked them and I always will.
We also got handsy with the Neo-Bridges Tourbillon, and the Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon also made it back into our greedy, little hands. If there’s one thing that folks can agree on about G-P, it’s that they absolutely know their way around haute horlogerie.
Our final stop was at Parmigiani Fleurier. This is an important brand for a number of reasons, not least of which for the work that they do behind the scenes for some of the biggest and most prestigious brands out there. And then there’s the fact that the man who’s name is on the dial is still alive and kicking, putting out some insanely cool watches with a design language all their own.
For SIHH 2018 they released the latest in their line of Bugatti-themed psycho watches, the Type 390. Again, I would refer you to Hodinkee if you want the full Forster-style breakdown of the movement, but suffice to say it involves a flying tourbillon, a planetary gearset and a worm screw. Make of that what you will. For those who actually buy one of these masterpieces, they will be able to “make” it from scratch, in a sense, with a novel online configurator that allows the potential owner to customize their Type 390 right down to the color of the lume on the dial.
With the end of our appointment with Parmigiani came the end of Day 2 at SIHH.
Now Day 3 beckons…