The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, and despite being rocked by the news that the Swiss National Bank would detach its currency exchange rate from the Euro, the prestigious watch fair enjoyed a year to remember. From five exhibitors sharing 4,500 square metres in 1991 to 16 Maisons occupying a surface ten times larger inside Palexpo Geneva, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie has come a long way in 25 years, and the fair showed signs of maturity, with a more subtle show, and a return to smaller watches, a celebration of the 1970s Art Deco movement, and a celebration of iconic designs. The year 2015 is without a doubt a grand cru, one for the ages, with highlights from several brands instead of a clear winner.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept RD#1
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept RD#1 got a standing ovation at SIHH 2015 thanks to a winning combination of iconic design and never-before-seen chiming technology. The sum of eight years of acoustic study, this prototype, developed in Audemars Piguet’s Le Brassus-based acoustic research lab in conjunction with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), places equal emphasis on both time and sound, reinventing the minute repeater category in the process, and setting new standards for volume, pitch and tone in a wristwatch. The RD#1 joins Audemars Piguet’s chart-toppers with a 48-hour power reserve, minute repeater, tourbillon and column-wheel chronograph. A black rubber strap and custom luminescent hands add the finishing touches, ensuring that one of SIHH’s most anticipated unveilings was also one of its highlights.
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Collection
A. Lange & Söhne turns 200 years old this year, and to celebrate the exceptional milestone, the German watch brand unveiled pieces steeped in history. Known for its understated watches, A. Lange & Söhne has made subtle changes to the Saxonia line which has thrilled fans since it was introduced 20 years ago. Changes to the hour indices and the addition of double-baton indices at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock feature in the new-look Saxonia Automatic, manual-winding Saxonia and Saxonia Dual Time, which now come in slightly smaller cases – 35 mm and 38.5 mm respectively. A. Lange & Söhne then unveiled a true stunner: the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater. Does it sound good? Undeniably so! A low-pitched tone sounds for each elapsed hour, a double tone for each elapsed ten-minute period and a high-pitched tone for each elapsed minute. And aesthetically, it’s really well thought out.
Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Grand Complication
Every year, since it helped launched SIHH in 1990, Cartier has demonstrated its pull on the fair with the largest new collection of the show, and this year was no exception. At SIHH 2015, Cartier showed its full range once again, covering the spectrum of watch making with one foot in the past and one in the future. Highlights this year include the return of a 70’s icon, the divisive Crash, as well as the introduction of a new entry-level model, the Clé de Cartier. The collection had something for everyone, but everyone also had their eyes and hearts firmly set on the Maison’s Rotonde de Cartier Grand Complication. The wristwatch, valued in excess of half a million dollars, becomes the brand’s most complicated, equipped with a minute repeater, perpetual calendar and tourbillon. Once again, Cartier stole the show!
IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar
IWC Schaffhausen may have provoked shockwaves when the brand announced it would be presenting a revamped Portuguese collection under a new name. After five years of research and development, IWC Schaffhausen finally presented an eager crowd of journalists with the Portugieser collection, which includes the brand’s first annual calendar. The Portugieser Annual Calendar (Ref. 5035) features three separate windows for the month, date and day at 12 o’clock. Note the “American” order in which the date is shown, for technical reasons, but also as homage to IWC’s American founder, Florentine Ariosto Jones. The new watch is presented in a large 44.2 mm case with grooved bezel, classic railway-track-style chapter ring, slim feuille hands and Arabic numerals similar to the original Portugieser of 1939. The small seconds subdial, however, is not positioned at 6 o’clock as in the original, but at 9 o’clock. The new watch is powered by the development of the new IWC-manufactured 52850 caliber, which features two barrels that keep the new function supplied for approximately 168 hours, enough to ensure a 7-day power reserve.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar Meteorite
Jaeger-LeCoultre led the race for Space with a new Master Calendar featuring a mesmerizing meteorite dial. The new 2015 model retains the same layout, movement and dimensions as last year’s model, but adds a handsome meteorite dial, which endows this classic calendar watch with new personality. The meteorite that Jaeger-LeCoultre uses comes from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and transforms the usually classic dial of the Master Calendar into something avant-garde and unexpected. The day of the week and the month are indicated in twin apertures at 12 o’clock, while the perpetual calendar is displayed by means of a long hand tipped with a red moon crescent that sweeps around a scale around the dial rim starting from 1 to 31. And all of this comes courtesy of the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufactured caliber 866, which beats away inside the watch giving life to this object of technical and artistic beauty. A desire for order and harmony govern the watch’s aesthetics, featuring a 39 mm-diameter and a 10.6 mm-thick case designed to adapt to the curve of any wrist. The Master Calendar is offered in both 18-carat pink gold and steel with a polished finish.
Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum
Montblanc picked up where it left off in 2014 by adding a new timepiece to the Heritage Spirit line and keeping it clean, simple and affordable. The new Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum (from the Latin word for “Globe” and “Earth”) introduces the world time function with a bird’s eye view of Earth. It tells the hour in all 24 time zones, and keeps the dial legible, making it the perfect companion for men who travel. Lean in, and you’ll find a disc under the sapphire dial that is half transparent and half dark to show where it is currently day and night on the planet, meaning the continents change color as the disc follows the earth’s rotation. Local time is shown by the hour and minute hands, while “home” time is indicated by the city positioned at 6 o’clock. The watch is powered by the automatic caliber MB29.20.
Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech 3 Days Automatic
Panerai proclaimed its originality this year through the debut of what it called the “Carbotech,” a carbon-fiber composite material that used in the brand’s latest diver’s watch, the Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech 3 Days Automatic 47 mm PAM00616. While the “Carbotech” may have stolen the headlines at the Panerai booth, the watch that left the biggest impression was the 52mm Panerai Mare Nostrum Titanio watch PAM00603. While it conforms to modern trends in terms of size, this monster of a watch is actually a relatively faithful recreation of an original 1943 Mare Nostrum and confirms the general trend at this year’s SIHH of vintage-inspired models.
Piaget Altiplano Chronograph
How thin can you go? The dilemma is obvious for watchmakers, but the answer unfortunately is not. It’s a little bit like asking a sprinter how a man can run under 9 seconds. But there is one brand that has relentlessly sought an answer: Piaget. The expert of slim watches introduced the world’s thinnest watch at SIHH 2014, the Piaget Altiplano 900P, and this year broke two more records with the release of the Piaget Altiplano Chronograph. Why is this record so important? A Chronograph is a watch with stopwatch capabilities, and it is one of the most popular complications today, but it also requires a lot of space to implement under the dial. Piaget found a way to squeeze its – stunning – 4.65 mm movement into an 8.24 mm case, something no one else had managed to do before. The result is the incredibly sharp, and stylish Piaget Altiplano Chronograph, which comes with an elegant alligator leather strap. Available in pink gold or in white gold with 56 brilliant-cut diamonds, it was well worth waiting for.
Roger DubuisExcalibur Spider Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon
Roger Dubuis is a manufacture known for its quest to push the boundaries of the tourbillon, and this year’s Excalibur Spider Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon doubles the fun with two operating in a mesmerizing display on the bottom half of the watch, a first in a skeleton watch. Lots of brands produce skeletonized movements and, though many are quite beautiful, the aesthetics for the most part take a traditional path. With its skeleton pieces, Roger Dubuis blows past the historic codes into daring new territory. Driven by the hand wound calibre RD01SQ with a 48-hour power reserve, the Excalibur Spider Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon gets its name from the signature five-point barrel bridge situated just off 12 o’clock that resembles a dynamic spider’s web. Other signatures include the Celtic cross tourbillon bridges and notched bezel with etched Arabic numerals. A red aluminum flange, lumed tip hands outlined in red, and a rubber accent on the crown and case band give a fresh pop against the silver metals of the movement and the titanium and black DLC-titanium 45mm case. Though the Excalibur Spider Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon leans to the sporty side, that doesn’t mean Roger Dubuis stinted on the details. This is haute horlogerie with exceptional finishing that qualifies for the Geneva Seal, as all Roger Dubuis watches do.
Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Collection
In a week dominated by headlines of the new, SIHH’s oldest member showed that vintage was very much au gout du jour, with a brilliant reinterpretation of its Harmony line. The Manufacture Vacheron Constantin turns 260 years old this year, but showed no intention of slowing down with an array of sublime novelties, including an eight-piece strong Harmony collection, featuring four new in-house movements and a reinvented Harmony Chronograph with pulsometer dial, a feature that was used by doctors to measure patients’ heart rates, but grew a cult-like following amongst collectors for its unique look. To say that the design is directly inspired from one of the brand’s 1920s chronographs is for once an understatement. Vacheron Constantin achieved what most set out to, which is to create an authentic homage to its first ever chronograph, made in 1928. The cushion-shaped case is back and has been beautifully redesigned to house the ultra-thin self-winding Caliber 3500 and set a new slimness record at just 5.20 mm thick.
WHO RUNS THE WORLD? GIRLS
2014 was the year that women’s timepieces were catching up to their male counterparts, this year will go down as the year they took over. During SIHH, several brands made more noise about – and thanks to – their ladies timepieces, and not just because they were pretty to look at. From Richard Mille’s tourbillon bouquet to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s diamond-studded stargazer, these watches introduced novel complications and intricate mechanics. Historically, it was customary for ladies to pay attention to watches made for men at SIHH. This year, it was very much the other way around.
Piaget Limelight Gala
When it comes to sophistication and beauty, Piaget is at the pinnacle of the game. The brand combines its watchmaking expertise with exquisite jewelry design to create showstoppers, and the Limelight collection nails it by giving the oval shape a twist. In a 32mm 18K rose gold case surrounded with diamonds, the Limelight Gala watch will add glamour to any woman’s wrist. The silvered dial is punctuated by Roman numerals and wraps around the wrist with a satin white strap. Definitely a cocktail watch but also a great accessory to add some kick to casual wear.
IWC Schaffhausen Portofino Moon
IWC decided to embrace women and introduced the mid-size Portofino collection in a more feminine 37mm case with a moon phase display that pays homage to the one from 1984. The Portofino Moon Reference 4590 comes in a white gold case refined with diamonds used as hour markers at the end of the baton indicators on the white mother-of-pearl dial. The romantic mother-of-pearl moon sits at 12 o’clock hovering among the stars. Inside ticks an automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve. The blue Santoni alligator strap completes this charming picture.
Richard Mille RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur
Richard Mille declared 2014 the “Year Of The Woman,” but ever the gentleman, the French watchmaker is back this year with a bouquet of 30 hand-picked magnolia flowers, packaged inside his latest creation. At first glance, the RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur seems quite simple, with hours and minutes displayed on an off-centered dial at 1 o’clock. But of course, this is a Richard Mille watch, and so it introduces some stunning mechanics. Usually on full display through skeletonized dials and movements, the technical features of the new RM 19-02 are this time hidden by a magnolia flower at 7 o’clock. And every five minutes, the five delicate hand-decorated petals of the magnolia bloom to reveal a flying tourbillon with its gemstone-set bud. Made of gold, this modern automaton combines beauty and motion for a stunning effect.
Audemars Piguet Millenary Hand-Wound
In the shape of an oval, the Audemars Piguet Millenary collection strays in an artistic way from the rest of the Audemars Piguet offerings, taking on a neo-classical aesthetic. Only offered for men, the Millenary, in a smaller 28.59 x 32.74mm 18K white gold case, debuts for women this year as seen in the Millenary Hand-Wound. A lot of this watch’s charm is the aesthetic choice to leave the dial opened in order to admire the beautiful mechanics. A small, off-center mother-of-pearl dial with Roman numerals and an overlapping mother-of-pearl seconds counter resides at 3 o’clock. Adding pizzazz to the watch is the diamond encrusted bezel and lugs. The crown with pink cabochon provides an intimate tactile experience with the hand wound movement, while the large square scale beige alligator strap highlights the pink gold touches on the hands, dial indicators and escapement bridge.
Vacheron Constantin Dual Time Small Model
In celebration of 260 years of existence Vacheron Constantin introduced a brand new collection called the Harmony. The limited edition Harmony pillar comes with several different complications but the Dual Time Small Model is a real looker. Although the cushion shape is historical, Vacheron Constantin makes it feel modern too. It comes in a choice of 18K red or white gold. This 18K white gold case shimmers with diamonds, and frames the white dial with blue Arabic numerals. The second time zone is easily visible yet at the same time unobtrusive at 4 o’clock and balanced by the running seconds at 8 o’clock. The Harmony Dual Time Small Model wraps around the wrist with a sky blue alligator strap. Vacheron Constantin introduces a new calibre to power this watch, the automatic 2460DT that has a lovely engraved rotor as well as “260th Anniversary” inscription engraved on the back.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez Vous Moon
Jaeger-LeCoultre turned its gaze to the heavens with the Rendez-Vous Moon. A 39mm white gold case allows a substantial canvas to interpret the moon, which takes up about 3/4 of the dial starting at 6 o’clock. The large orb of the mother-of-pearl moon is the satellite of the show, floating against the backdrop of a blue celestial sky. Blued Arabic numbers and a blue satin strap hearken back to the firmament. But most secretly and importantly, a star-shaped hand can be set to remind of your next rendez-vous date. Diamonds encrust the bezel and lugs for extra sparkle. Limited to 265 pieces, the Rendez-Vous Moon runs off an automatic movement.
The popularity of mechanical watches pushed many watchmakers out of the shadows at the turn of the 21st century. Names that had been whispered throughout the industry were suddenly on the lips of watch collectors standing on the outside, as young watchmakers created their own brands to showcase the full range of their skill and creativity. Now well established as independent brands, they are seeking to grow into fully-fledged companies and challenge those they once aligned with. Some of them may have already achieved this goal and are on their way to the next.
Richard Mille RM 011 Titanium Bracelet
While Richard Mille unveiled two new watches at this year’s SIHH, the brand also added a pair of new bracelets for men and women to enhance the experience of its collectors. The RM 011 got a surprisingly cool makeover with a simple yet transformative titanium bracelet. The new strap features brushed surfaces, polished beveled edges and the brand’s signature spring-loaded deployant buckle for comfort. Meanwhile, the RM 07-01 and the RM 037 receive the option of an open link strap entirely hand-made and hand finished. The new bracelets elevate the brand’s collection by creating an exceptional variety of combinations that are rare in the world of independent watch making.
We’ve come to expect the unexpected from HYT. The independent watch brand, launched in 2012 specializes in being different, with a collection of hydro-mechanical watches that use a liquid component to indicate the time. However, Vincent Perriard and his team managed to raise eyebrows once again with the HYT Skull, which looks like it belongs on Iron Man’s wrist. Besides the bold skull at the center of the dial, the new HYT watch surprises for two very important reasons. First off, it is the first watch in the collection that completely hides the movement on the dial side. But more importantly, it also entirely does away with the minute indication. Instead a capillary carries the red (or green) fluid around the dial, in order to indicate the hour and minute markers with a single track.
Greubel Forsey GMT Black
Black watches and titanium watches are both very popular choices for young collectors. So when you combine both, as Greubel Forsey have just done, you know you’ve got a winner. The new GMT Black builds on the aesthetic success of the brand’s one-off unique black piece made for Marcus Watches. It once again features the GF05 movement with 24 second tourbillon inclined at a 25 degree angle, GMT function, three-dimensional globe for day/night indication, rotating disc with 24 different time zones at the back – with daylight savings indication – and 72 hour power reserve. However, the weight of the materials will mean the new Greubel Forsey GMT feels much lighter on the wrist. The new GMT Black will be made available for US $565,000 in a limited run of 22 pieces, which shows the brand’s ability – and willingness – to manufacture in larger numbers.
F.P. Journe Nouvelle Octa Lune
Last year, F.P. Journe launched his first gold dials through the Octa collection. This year, he has decided to update the Octa Lune – the moon phase model from the Octa collection – with a new golden robe, and a slightly bigger dial than the previous Octa Lune. The result is a striking watch, which manages to look slightly more imposing than its previous iteration, and offers greater legibility for a better reading of the time. The main dial still features a five day retrograde power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock, and a moon phase at 8 o’clock, but the date in the aperture at 11 o’clock is now twice the size of the original. The F.P. Journe logo and motto, Invenit et Fecit, are also moved from the top of the watch to the bottom, this time appearing over two lines at 7 o’clock. Meanwhile, hours and minutes are displayed in a larger off-center dial, with embossed hour numbers surfaced with a diamond tool. The Nouvelle Octa Lune is available in multiple editions: in 40mm or 42mm, in 18K red gold or PT 950 platinum on leather strap or metallic strap. The Nouvelle Octa Lune marks a new milestone in F.P. Journe’s pioneering gold rush.
De Bethune DB25T Zodiac
De Bethune is a small independent brand, priding itself on its inventing and developing of new horological techniques. The brand introduced the DB25T Zodiac on the fringes of SIHH 2015, focusing on aesthetics this time by incorporating the signs of the zodiac, hand etched in gold around the dial by artist Michèle Rothen and laid against a blued titanium “sky” dotted with stars. A smaller concentric circle clocks the time with open-worked yellow gold hands reflecting off the gold colored astrological symbols rounding black Roman numeral hour indicators. A blued seconds hand pops out to echo the sky as it rounds the dial. Completing the shimmery theme of the night sky is the silver-toned guilloché decoration radiating from the center of the dial. In a 44mm white gold case and hallowed lugs, another De Bethune trademark, De Bethune’s Zodiac watch comes on a navy blue alligator strap with pin buckle. Day or night, this watch is a beautiful way to gaze into the stars.