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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Classic Watches with Subtle Innovations at SIHH 2014

Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar

There’s just 16 luxury watch brands that exhibit at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), but the amount of watches that are produced each year is staggering. This year was no exception as I go through the new pieces. This new group represents classic watches, with unusual twists. Each is very different even though they can be grouped under the same category of watches.

Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar
In terms of brands, the story of SIHH has to be Montblanc. First came the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 100, which combines the expertise in its watch manufacturing facility in Le Locle with its Villeret manufacturing facility, known for its handmade movements.

Perhaps just as significant was the release of its Meisterstück Heritage Collection. The line was inspired by the 90th anniversary of the brand’s iconic Meisterstück writing instrument. The top piece in this collection is its perpetual calendar model (top photo), which has to be the first watch with a perpetual calendar and a moon phase for 10,000 euros ($13,700). An 18k rose gold model costs about 16,900 euros ($23,200).

The classic 39mm watch is powered by the automatic caliber MB 29.15.

The date is shown at 3 o’clock, the day of the week at 9 o’clock and the month at 12 o’clock. On the inner scale of the month display, the leap-year cycle is shown by a blue triangle and a leap year is indicated by a red number 4. The moon’s phases are emulated in a window at 6 o’clock; with the moon’s age indicated in days at this window’s upper edge. The only drawback I see is a lack of space between the sub-dials. Other than that this watch has earned the Meisterstück (masterpiece) name.

Van Cleef & Arpels Heure d’ici & Heure d’ailleurs
Another brand that had an exceptional SIHH was Van Cleef & Arpels whose biggest introduction was the Midnight Planétarium Poetic Complication. Now comes the Pierre Arpels Heure d’ici & Heure d’ailleurs, which translates as “The Time Here and the Time Elsewhere.” This watch manages to combine the romantic and practical notions of travel and it does so simply, playfully and elegantly.

First the practical, the dual timezone watch comes in a 42mm white gold case with a crown-set diamond. The dial is made of white lacquer with piqué motif. The automatic movement was developed by the Swiss watchmaking firm, Agenhor, exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels. It has a double jumping hour and retrograde minutes.

There’s a pureness to the appearance of the white dial that displays the two timezones equally. The main timezone is in the aperture at the top of the dial and the secondary timezone in a lower aperture. There’s a single hand between the hour displays that indicates the minutes on the graduated scale.

The hours of the first and second time zones jump at the same time, thanks to a single sector that synchronizes the two hour discs and the retrograde minute hand. When the latter reaches 60 minutes on the graduated scale, it returns to its starting position at the same instant that the hour display changes.

To do this, the automatic movement is equipped with a platinum micro-rotor that takes up little space. By oscillating in two directions, it can supply energy continuously.

Officine Panerai Radiomir 1940 Chronograph
This watch is available in platinum, red gold and white gold. The 45mm classic cushion case has two push-buttons that control the chronograph functions, the cylindrical winding crown and the bezel. It was originally created by Officine Panerai for the Royal Italian Navy.

The red gold version has a brown dial with the combination of graphic hour markers, Roman and Arabic numerals (known as “California”). The platinum version has an ivory dial, with simple baton or dot hour markers. Common to all three versions is the tachymeter scale for calculating average speed and the two chronograph counters.

The mechanical, hand-wound OP XXV caliber movement is developed on a Minerva 13-22 base. The Minerva manufacture (now owned by Montblanc and known as Villeret) has had historic links with Panerai since the 1920s, when the Swiss manufacturer was a supplier to the Florentine watchmaker.

It is available in a limited edition of 100 for both gold versions and 50 for the platinum version.

Parmigiani Toric Résonance 3
The “oversized” date on this watch solves a practical problem of being able to easily see the display. But aside from the practical and aesthetic considerations, Parmigiani said the impetus behind the eye-shaped window came from a watchmaking challenge. The discs on the date mechanism are the same size as the dial. Despite being cut to a great degree of fineness, they require huge amounts of energy to activate them and even more to stop them dead following the instantaneous jump.

To accomplish this, the first cam accumulates energy through continuous friction over time. This arms the large lever continuously, releasing it every 24 hours onto a 31-tooth wheel. The second cam serves as the brake, by controlling a spring-mounted lever. This device keeps the large date discs permanently immobile, releasing them for just a fraction of a second every 24 hours to allow the instantaneous jump.

The center of the dial employs hand-crafted guilloché decoration that enhances the depth of the date. The 45mm watch is powered by the mechanical hand-wound Caliber PF 359, which also has a minute repeater sounding the hours, quarter-hours and minutes.

Baume & Mercier Clifton Flying Tourbillon
This watch is inspired by a tourbillon pocket watch presented by Alcide Baume in 1892 at the Kew Observatory in England. It is powered by the Val Fleurier P591 mechanical hand-wound movement has a 50-hour power reserve. The flying toubillon, located at 9 o’clock, makes a single rotation per minute. A sub-dial displaying seconds is located at 6 o’clock. The 45.5mm case is made of 18k red gold.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin
The ultra-thin classical automatic watch has an aesthetically pleasing traditional design. However, creating this sort of simplicity isn’t always simple to achieve. The 38.5 mm timepiece, available in pink gold or stainless steel, is refined and elegant. A single sub-dial on the “eggshell” white dial shows seconds. The thickness of the watch is a mere 7.58mm.

Jaeger-LeCoultre was able to achieve this level of thinness and simplicity through its automatic movement Caliber 896. The 3.98mm thin movement has a 43-hour power reserve.

Ralph Lauren Safari Watch
The luxury design brand introduced a 39mm version of its Safari Aged Steel Chronometer (RL67) as a follow-up to the collection introduced at SIHH 2013. The hand-wound mechanical movement Caliber: RL 300-1 is COSC-certified for the accuracy and precision of its chronometer. It has a 42-hour power reserve. The case is made of aged black steel and the dial of “azure” anthracite with matte varnish and beige luminescent hour and minute hands and hour markers, and a shiny orange second hand.

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