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Sunday, February 22, 2015

16 Luxury Watches from 16 Luxury Brands: The Best of SIHH 2015

The 25th edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) was held about a month ago in Geneva. It is the first major watch tradeshow of the year and it is also considered by many to be the most exclusive and luxurious of them all. A total of 16 brands exhibit in which 11 are owned by Switzerland-based luxury goods holding company, Compagnie Financière Richemont.

There is an astonishing amount of creative, technological and innovative diversity in the Swiss watch industry and the products below represent the broad range of what’s available. I only focused on a single product from each brand so to be sure there will be more to write over the course of a year.

A Lange & Söhne
This year the company focused on sound with its Zeitwerk Minute Repeater (top photo). The Zeitwerk is a decimal minute repeater, which means it strikes at ten-minute intervals and at each minute.

The striking mechanism is triggered with a pusher. The time is sounded with a low-pitched chime for each hour, an offset double tone for each ten-minute period, and a high-pitched tone for each minute. For example, on the photograph of the watch the time is 7:52. When the pusher is triggered there are seven low sounding chimes for the hour. For the “five,” both hammers strike in an offset fashion five times. For the “two,” the high-pitched chime strikes twice.

A pusher is used—instead of a slide, typical for a minute repeater, because that is where the power typically derives. For the Zeitwerk the barrel of the caliber L043.5 mechanical movement provides the power.

If the minute repeater is going through its process at the same time a new minute is suppose to appear in the aperture, the jumping mechanism will pause until the minute repeater is finished.

Audemars Piguet
The Diamond Punk is a bold, tough looking timepiece that sneers at traditional, delicate jewelry watches.

A total of 56 white gold pyramids are faceted to create a spiky look reminiscent of the punk rock era. The pyramids are covered in 7,848 snow-set diamonds. A sliding cover reveals the 18k white gold dial, snow-set with 300 diamonds. It can be worn as a bracelet or timepiece.

More than 1,400 hours of work by designers, jewelers and gem-setters went into creating this watch.

Baume & Mercier
Baume & Mercier is using its Classima watch collection for men and women to introduce the world of luxury watches to young people. It’s positioning the watch as a way for young people to celebrate their first success, such as graduating college or landing that first job. This is a classic Swiss watch has a low enough price to get them interested and enough detail to keep their interests.

The 40 mm Classima Men’s in steel or two-tone versions has a redesigned dial with a date aperture at 3 o’clock and the center in line guilloche décor. The hours, minutes and seconds hands are in blued steel or gilt. It’s powered by a modified automatic Sellita movement.

The 36.5 mm-diameter size Classima Women collection of six watches is available in a quartz or automatic movement. The white or mother-of-pearl dial is centered with sunray guilloché.

The French luxury house introduced a new watch shape, a new crown and new movement into one watch collection for men and women called Clé de Cartier.

Clé means “key” in French. The crown isn’t round. Instead it’s long with a cabochon sapphire in middle. You don’t pull the crown to wind the watch. You turn it like a key in a lock and it sort of locks into place after each revolution.

The new shape is a round case surrounded by a rounded cushion shape. The 1847 MC movement was made in house. There are five models in this collection, two for men and three for women.

Greubel Forsey
The young, independent company introduced its seventh “invention” at SIHH: The Mechanical Computer and its first application of it: The QP à Équation.

Described as a “sub-assembly” of 25 parts, it is being used to measure the Equation of Time. This is the difference throughout the year between solar time and mean time (conventionally fixed at 24 hours per day throughout the year). The length of a day in solar time varies according to the position of the earth on its elliptical orbit around the sun.

The Mechanical Computer in the QP à Équation automatically displays the indications of the perpetual calendar through to the equation of time: the seasons, the equinoxes, the solstices, the equation of time, and the date, day, month and the four-digit year. The eight indications are controlled by a single selector in the movement's winding crown. Turning it in either direction adjusts all indications with no risk of damaging the mechanism.

The equation of time is displayed by two sapphire crystal discs driven by the Mechanical Computer which rotates them independently to show the time difference as it changes throughout the year.

The Portugieser Hand-Wound Eight Days Edition 75th Anniversary is reminiscent of the original Portugieser from the 1930s. The in-house 59215-caliber has an eight-day power reserve. The red gold reference is limited to 175 watches, while the steel case, ardoise (grayish purple) dial variant is limited to 750 pieces.

It has all the esthetic attributes of the Portugieser: Arabic numerals, slim feuille hands, railway-track-style chapter ring and small seconds at 6 o’clock. However, the inner chapter ring, hour indices and Arabic numerals are in gold-brown with black edging. The 18k red gold with silver-plated dial inherited the color scheme and company logo of its forebear almost without change. Light green dial elements on the stainless steel version contrast against the matte black dial. A new feature is the date display on the subdial at 6 o’clock.

The dial of the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication depicts the starry Northern Hemisphere sky. The timepiece is dedicated to astronomical time measurement.

The sidereal orbital tourbillion in its titanium cage whirls around the dial in a counter-clockwise revolution in 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds (reflecting sidereal time, which astronomers use to track stars and other heavenly bodies in the night sky). The 24-hour day (the “civil” time) is measured by a small sun on the outer part of the dial that rotates around the dial. The sky-chart and rotation is also used as a calendar that indicates the Zodiac and month.

Finally, there’s a minute-repeater that chimes the hours, quarters and minutes on demand. This is all powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 945 mechanical hand-wound movement.

The Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama traces the route from Europe to India by sea made by the Portuguese explorer. The 47 mm red gold case surrounds a three-dimensional dial. The 281-part, hand-wound tourbillon caliber MB M68.40, made at Montblanc’s Villeret manufacturing unit (which specializes in hand-made movements) features a one-minute tourbillon mechanism with a cylindrical hairspring.

The movement supports numerous functions, including: a triple time zone with local time displayed in hours and minutes; the home time presented on a three-dimensional 12-hour compass rose at 6 o’clock; and a pair of globes depicting the World´s 24 time zones in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, along with the passage of day and night.

Engravings and miniature paintings on the two halved globes indicate in relief the outlines of the continents, their borders and the oceans that separate them, recalling, on a daily basis, the sea route through the Earth’s two hemispheres that da Gama sailed in 1497.

The globes illustrate the day and night in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere along with latitude and longitude.

Radiomir Firenze is a watch that honors its roots in the city of Florence. The AISI 316L stainless steel case is completely hand-engraved with motifs inspired by Florentine iconography. Each case requires more than a week of work by one engraver.

The 47 mm case has the same dimensions of the first watch created by the company in 1936. The watch is powered by the mechanical P.3000 caliber.

It’s limited to 99 units and will only be sold at Panerai’s historic Florence boutique in Piazza San Giovanni, where the company was founded. Since the case is hand-engraved, no two are identical.

Honoring the 10th anniversary of a partnership between Parmigiani and luxury car maker Bugatti, the luxury watch brand unveiled two new timepieces: Bugatti Révélation and Bugatti Victoire. They are modeled after the Bugatti type 370 movement, which was the first watch produced by the partnership. The tubular shaped movement resembles an engine block. It was introduced to mark the partnership in 2004 and created a bit of a stir due to its unusual shape.

A third watch in the 10th anniversary line, Bugatti Mythe, was introduced in August 2014.

The motif of the Bugatti Victoire (pictured) is formed of concentric Vs, evoking the skid marks left on the track by a racing car. The geometric shapes were produced by engraving work on the white gold that makes it looks darker. The artisan who engraved this watch is the same one who worked on the Bugatti Centenaire in 2004, one of the first pieces in the collection. The side sections are set with diamonds. The leather strap was cut in the same V pattern.

The company released the Emperador Coussin 1270S, the world’s thinnest ultra-thin tourbillon automatic skeleton watch, with a case measuring 8.85 mm thick. The cushion-shaped, ultra-thin (5.05 mm) tourbillon automatic skeleton caliber 1270S was designed and developed specifically for the 46.5 mm cushion-shaped case housing it. The caliber consists of 225 parts and took more than three years to develop.

The inverted architecture of this movement provides a view of the platinum oscillating weight and bridges. The off-centered micro-rotor and the tourbillion, topped with a P for Piaget, form a figure 8, providing a clear view of the main functional elements of this watch.

The watch is available in white and pink gold.

Ralph Lauren
The 867 collection, named after the New York flagship store at 867 Madison Avenue, reflects the style of the Art Deco era.

The Ralph Lauren 867 Petite Diamond timepiece has a 21.50mm 18k white gold case set with 289 round, brilliant-cut diamonds as well as 12 baguette-cut diamonds and attached to a black suede strap. It houses a Swiss quartz movement, decorated with Côtes de Genève.

Richard Mille
The centerpiece of the RM 19-02 Fleur lady’s timepiece is a tourbillon topped with a magnolia made of painted white gold leaves. Once per hour or on command with the push of a button, pink leaves of the magnolia opens to reveal the tourbillion. The center of the tourbillion extends up 1 mm imitating the stamen of the flower.

To make this happen, the grade 5 titanium tourbillon caliber uses 5 levers that surround the underside of the petals, with another system that uses a long pinion to raise the flying tourbillon and “stamen” upwards within the flower’s circumference. The energy for this action is supplied by a separate winding barrel.

Roger Dubuis
This year, the brand declared 2015 as the year of the “Astral Skeleton,” unveiling several skeleton interpretations. For its “creative” skeleton, the brand released the Excalibur Brocéliande. Decorative jewelry elements are entwined with the skeleton flying tourbillon movement and the dial.

The decorative elements of 18k gold vines include white round diamonds with touches of colored ivy leaves produced from precision cut gems in autumn colors of pink, yellow, and orange. They are added to the tourbillion movement without disturbing its operation.

The watch is available in a limited edition of 28-pieces.

Vacheron Constantin
For its 260th anniversary, Vacheron Constantin unveiled two timepieces in its Métiers d’Art collection distinguished by hand-engraved movements that keep with classic ornamental watchmaking traditions. The plates and bridges of the hand-wound calibers are adorned with delicate floral motifs, reminiscent of the engravings of the first pocket watches created by Vacheron Constantin.

The caliber 4400 hand-engraved movement of the Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées is housed in a 950 platinum, 39 mm-diameter round case. There is no dial covering the movement in order to fully display the subtle floral motifs. It takes more than 10 days to craft the movement.

It is available only at Vacheron Constantin boutiques.

Van Cleef & Arpels
Successful luxury brands are exceptional storytellers, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any company that does it better than Van Cleef & Arpels.

The two newest releases in the “Poetic Complications” collection express the watchmaker’s art and the constant renewal of time. Both in white gold with a bezel set in round diamonds, these 38 mm timepieces combine the technical prowess of a quality movement with various hand-crafted techniques that display a gradual story over a 24-hour period.

For the Lady Arpels Jour Nuit Oiseaux de Paradis (Day Night Bird of Paradise), a bird of paradise sets its plume of feathers down upon a bird of paradise flower. As the day moves on, the feathers gradually recede making way for a diamond moon. The artistic scene was created with various hand-crafted techniques including cloisonné enamel and engraved gold.

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