While, for the most part the old adage that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, I’m pleased to report that I slowed down the party machine just a little bit, which was reflected in a Day 3 that wasn’t quite so marked by extreme fatigue.
Ordinarily, Wednesday – aka “Day 3” – is a slow one relative to the previous two days, but this year it was quite the opposite. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you why that was the case this year, but I wasn’t the only person to take note of this. Not sure what to make of it, but, hey, there you have it.
After downing two espressos and an entire plate of pastries, it was off to Richard Mille to be blown away by their RM53-01, the second RM designed expressly for famed polo player, Pablo McDonough. The first, the RM53 (sans “01”), was released in 2012 in a limited series of five pieces. The design brief specified that it be able to withstand the rigors of a polo match, which includes everything from mallet strikes to being thrown from a horse. RM accomplished this primarily with a shrouded case, which had the effect of minimizing the surface area of the sapphire crystal and preventing it from being struck at all but the most oblique angles.
This time around, the design brief remained the same, but now Richard Mille wanted the movement to be visible, which meant a full-dial crystal front and back. The issue here is that sapphire, while exceedingly hard, is also quite brittle, which makes it susceptible to cracking and even shattering if receives a hard enough strike. To combat this, RM developed a sort of laminated “Safe-T-Glas” akin to what one might find on a car windshield, which not only protects the sapphire, but, in the instance of a catastrophic hit, prevents it from shattering and contaminating the dial and movement with tiny shards of crystal.
As for the movement, it’s suspended in the case by no less than 10 titanium cables, each of which is individually tuned by a single watch maker. The lightweight case is is crafted in RM’s proprietary Carbon TPT material, which is exceedingly durable.
Did they accomplish their goal? I’m thinking yes, but since I’m not willing to be thrown from a horse to find out, I’m content to take their word for it.
From RM, it was a little more than a hop, skip and a jump over to Ulysse Nardin’s booth, which was defined as much by the full length video screen ocean water that comprised the ceiling, as it was by the original Damian Hurst artwork that dotted the reception area.
This year, there were several stories at the manufacture, but given that they made a gigantic point of their hashtag #FREAKMEOUT, we may as well start with the new Freak timepiece they introduced. The Freak was originally designed by none other than Ludwig Oechslin, the former technical director of UN, former director of the Musée International D’Horlogerie and co-founder of the independent watch manufacture, Ochs und Junior. Ordinarily, the Freak has been a standalone halo piece, which sees a new iteration come down the pike on a yearly basis, but for 2018 it finally becomes its own collection under the UN umbrella.
The Freak Vision maintains its namesake’s reputation for innovation with an entirely new automatic winding system – a first for the series – which is twice as efficient as regular rotors. Add to this its silicium balance wheel and Anchor Escapement (a constant force escapement, I might add), and you have a watch that lives up to the original. The Freak Vison retails for approximately $95K, but later in the year another model will be added to the collection that will sell for a little more than half as much. Keep your eyes peeled.
Their other new release for 2018 was the Deep Dive, which ostensibly channels Ulysee Nardin’s long history with marine chronometers, and, indeed dive watches with the Maxi-Marine collection. Technically speaking, the Deep Dive is as capable as any uber diver on the market today, with a titanium case capable of withstanding 1000M of water pressure, but aesthetically speaking the best we can say is that its “unique”. Only 300 will be made, so it’ll be a rare bird in the wild, but should you happen to come across one you definitely won’t mistake it for anything else.
And then there’s the Classic Voyeur “erotic” minute repeater… While it wears its intentions on its sleeve, under the hood it’s pure haute holorgerie.
Do not wear this to dinner with the in-laws.
From here it was time to head back over to the Carre Des Horlogers to spend some time among the independents of SIHH. First up was MB&F with their Moon Machine 2, a variation on the HM8 Can-Am.
The MM2 is their second collaboration with Finnish watchmaker, Stepan Sarpaneva; the first Moon Machine was based on the HM3 Frog. Given that Stepan is known for his playfully designed moonphase complications, it should come as no surprise that the MM2 sports Sarpaneva’s familiar face, this time projected on a prism, as with the hours and the minutes.
Over at Ferdinand Berthoud I came across some of the most exquisitely designed and finished movements that, frankly speaking, I’ve ever seen. Ferdinand Berthoud was an 18th century watchmaker known for his marine chronometers, and the watches that bear his name today, with their angular cases and unique dial layouts, are designed with more than a passing nod to their seagoing forebears. I got up close and personal with the FB 1.4-1, which sports a granite-like textured black dial, while the movement… Ah, the movement! Once more, we require the services of Mr. Forster to properly explain it, but between the sapphire bridges, fusee and chain transmission, constant force regulator and tourbillon, there’s nothing left to do but gape, slack-jawed, at its sublime beauty.
After bumping into none other than James Thompson of Black Badger Advanced Composites fame and his brilliant MB&F HMX collaboration, I hoofed it on over to Panerai to play with their novelties. For me the real story for Panerai in 2018 is the Luminor Base and Marina Logo collection, which update the classic 44mm Bettarini cases with clean OP logo dials and new, in-house 3-day manual wind movements. The best part is that the prices remain relatively unchanged from their Untias-powered predecessors. A proper black-dial Base Logo may just be the Panerai to bring me back into the fold.
Panerai also served up a 38mm version of their slimline Luminor Due, which, in spite of clearly being designed to appeal to feminine wrists, also works just fine on my hairy, masculine one.
Their hero piece, however, the L’Astronomo 1950 Luminor Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation of Time GMT, clocks in at a hefty 50mm in diameter, which is necessary to house its myriad of complications. As for said complications, let’s just say that it does what it says on the tin. What truly makes this Panerai unique, however, is not the tourbillon, equation of time or GMT, but rather the moonphase, which is a first for the brand.
Over at Piaget their flagship Altiplano collection was almost overshadowed by their elaborate booth, which featured a central reflecting pool, floating juice bar and a novel viewing area that simulated being underwater at a resort swimming pool. Almost. The effect was soothing to say the least, but ultimately the Altiplano was able to shine through with its unparalleled execution of the ultra-thin concept. Back in 2013 Piaget revolutionized the quest for ultimate thinness with their 900P, a watch that employed what Piaget refers to as an “inverted movement” to achieve an almost unbelievable thickness of just 3.65mm in total. It accomplished this feat by combining the movement backplate and case together, and the end result was the thinnest mechanical production watch on the planet. For 2018 Piaget employed the same formula, but this time in automatic guise with the 910P Altiplano Ultimate Automatic. This one checks in at a mere 4.30mm in total, which allows it to claim the title as the thinnest automatic mechanical production watch on the planet. Not too shabby, Piaget.
Of course, if want to talk about truly “not shabby”, then one must acknowledge the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, which measures a mere 2mm thick. That’s right, 2mm. At this size, even a normal strap isn’t viable, so Piaget infused theirs with kevlar to increase its durability. As the addition of the word “concept” implies, this particular watch isn’t destined for production, and, indeed, one has to wonder just how suitable for wear it actually is. While the watch is entirely functional, given the extremes that Piaget went through to achieve this insane level of thinness, a certain level of fragility is implied. Indeed, while Atom was were allowed to handle it and photograph, we weren’t allowed to try it on. That was probably for the best, however, as we wouldn’t want to be the ones to accidentally snap the thing in half.
Over at Roger Dubuis we had the good fortune of meeting with North American VP of Sales, Nicolas Fermont, a good friend of RedBar and a man ideally suited to walking us through the new Avendator S Blue, which adds a new colorway to the Excalibur Aventador S series launched late in 2017 with the . As with all RDs, the Aventador S Blue is an acquired taste, which is exactly how the manufacture wants it. With their recently announced partnership with Lamborghini and their racing series, Squadra Corse (this was previously sponsored by Blancpain), RD is making a conscious effort to align their aesthetic to wealthy extroverts who couldn’t possibly care less what mere mortals like you and I think about their conspicuous consumption.
As with all Excaliburs, the movement is entirely skelentonized, this time with a nod towards the engine architecture of the 12 cylinder motor of the Aventador. Referred to as the Dutour thanks to its dual balance wheels, it’s essentially half of the bonkers Quatour movement, and I have to give them credit, does indeed look like an engine. The case is crafted almost entirely from C-SMC forged carbon, which comes straight from Lamborghini, and the overall effect is appropriately aggressive. This is not a watch for horological wallflowers, but then name one modern RD that is.
For those who find the forged carbon fiber not sufficiently suited to telegraphing their obscene wealth, pink gold is also available.
From here it was on to the fashion house, Hermès, which was making its debut at SIHH this year. While many associate Hermès in the main with men and women’s couture and luxury accessories, they’re hardly a new jack when it comes to the world of haute Horlogerie. As such, their inclusion at this year’s show shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the know. Indeed, our CEO, Kathleen McGivney is the proud owner of a Slim D’Hermès, and their perpetual calendar from the same collection is a piece that I would be more than happy to squire around on my hirsute wrist.
On display at their booth, which, I must note was ideally positioned at the front of the PalExpo, was an updated Carré H and a new chronograph version of the Arceau in titanium. Both are existing models in the Hermès catalog, with the Carré H dating to 2010 and the Arceau going all the way back to 1978. The Carrè H, which was envisioned by noted furniture designer, Marc Berthier, is served up for 2018 with a 38mm x38mm stainless steel case that hugs the wrist thanks to its curved caseback. Under the hood is Hermès’ in-house caliber the H.1912. While 38×38 doesn’t sound particularly large for a round case, for a square one it is, and watch definitely wears proud on the wrist. That said, the most interesting design element has to be the crosshatch pattern on the dial which has been implemented in such a way that allows it to catch the light in a most intriguing fashion.
The Arceau Chrono Titane is based on a design by Henri d’Origny that dates back to the late 70s, and, as the name implies, is a chronograph. Unlike the Carrè H, the movement isn’t in-house, but this serves to keep the price down to an eminently reasonable $5100. Thanks to its asymmetrical lug design – it’s meant to evoke a stirrup – it too wears a bit larger than its 41mm diameter would indicate, but this is in keeping with what I find to be the most sporty offering in Hermès’ lineup.
No trip to SIHH is complete without a visit to Greubel Forsey, and far be it from us to buck tradition. For 2018 the big story from what is arguably the most expensive and prestigious manufacture at the show, was the Différentiel d’Égalité, which marks the first production implementation of Robert and Stephen’s fifth “invention”. In essence, this is their version of a constant force mechanism, and it’s been through a decade-long gestation period, having first been introduced back in 2008 in concept form. Not content to stop there, the Différentiel d’Égalité is also the first Greubel Forsey to incorporate a dead-beat seconds complication.
Also on display was an update to their stunning GMT Earth, which now features a 360 degree spinning globe, visible from all angles, within its white gold case. The original GMT Earth was first introduced in 2011, and while the 2018 version may seem to be identical, when viewed side-by-side the differences become readily apparent. Of course, in addition to the novel depiction of the earth, the GMT also sports a 24 second Tourbillon inclined at a 25 degree angle. Doubtless other case materials are in the works, but for now only white gold in a series of 33 pieces is being offered.
The GMT has long be an uber grail of mine, and 2018 does nothing to change this. Alas, at price well north of $600K, it shall remain comfortably out of reach. Le sigh.
And thus endeth my madcap three day tour of SIHH 2018. No, the story doesn’t end here, as I also attended the public day as a guide of sorts for a very special RedBar member, but that tale will be told at a later date.
This was definitely an interesting year for SIHH, though just what it portends for the industry going forward has yet to be seen. For my part I can say that mood on the floor was more optimistic, even if some of the releases felt as restrained as in years past.
The above notwithstanding, I hope that you enjoyed your time with me, and please stay tuned for my thoughts on the show overall, and what my highlights were.
All photographs by Atom Moore.