This is the 22nd time I have travelled to Geneva to cover the SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie), the invitation-only Richemont affair showcasing the new introductions of 18 elite Swiss watch brands. It is the first SIHH, however, about which I have written a blog. Instead of capping the night with a glass of champagne at the usual hot spot and arguing with my colleagues about the best inroductions of the day, I will take a moment to opine online about the day’s top 3 treasures.
First, the reason why we are all here in the first place: Cartier (accounting for more than half of Richemont Group sales). When the brand introduced the Tank Francaise in 1996, my personal opinion was that it should have been more rounded at the edges and less rectangular in case shape. It turned out to be the most successful introduction in Cartier history. Today, the brand introduced the Tank Anglais, with rounded edges and a more squared case – and so at last, the watch of my dreams. A distinguishing feature is the crown’s seamless integration into the right brancard – the side element of the case. At a dinner tonight with the Cartier group, the brands’s style, image and heritage director Pierre Rainero (what other brand has a style, image and heritage director!?) explained that that Jean-Jacques Cartier, son of Jacques Cartier and grandson of the brand’s founder, designed watches that were always rounded at the edges, and that the latest Tank is a tribute to that aesthetic. In three sizes and three gold colors, with diamond options, this is a full collection and sure to be another Cartier home run.
The star of Cartier’s high watchmaking introductions this year is the Rotonde minute repeater/flying tourbillon, containing one of four new in-house movements introduced by the brand. The case, shaped for optimum sound transmission, is made of titanium, with the gongs linked to the middle of the plate at four points rather than the inner case sides. It is equipped with a patented “inertia and friction” regulator, a component that controls the strike train and reduces the space needed to house such a complicated mechanism. The result is a very complex double complication that is small enough to fit under a cuff.
The minute repeater being the hottest showcase complication since the tourbillon, several other brands introduced one, including, notably, Van Cleef & Arpels, with a new five-minute repeater produced by Aghenor. This is the boutique movement creator’s first-ever repeater, which also departs from the typical repeater mechanism in that instead of attaching the gongs to the inner case, where it can reverberate against the metal, it is attached to the center of the movement, coiling outwards toward – but not touching – the case. The function works with Van Cleef’s latest poetic collection, the Poetic Wish. Triggering the repeater gongs activates automatons on the dial, including a young woman and a cloud, which converge to indicate the hour, and a kite which positions itself on a minute index. The dial is a metiers d’art showcase, including engraving, miniature painting, mother-of-pearl sculpting and gemsetting. Worthy of any discriminating wish list!