Every year, Richemont Group’s luxury watch brands, plus a handful of large, independent brands, exhibit their new watches at SIHH in Geneva’s labyrinthine Palexpo Center. This year, 38 small, independent watch brands put on their own show called the Geneva Time Exhibition (GTE) at the International Geneva Conference Center, in the heart of downtown, near the famed Place des Nations.
On my final day in Geneva for this year’s shows, I visited the GTE and was pleased to find a number of truly creative pieces, and some downright fascinating horological inventions, among the offerings. The spirit of experimental watchmaking appears to be alive and well, despite the rough economy, and not only at the more established luxury brands. What follows are a few of the watches that caught my eye. Prices were not yet available, so I’ve included links to the manufacturers’ sites for further information.
The Hydroscaph, the new divers’ model from Clerc, incorporates the brand’s trademark locking system, where a knob at 10 o’clock turns the bezel to the desired position and then locks it into place to prevent unintended changing of the setting for a timed dive. Its case, made of grade-5 titanium and composed of more than 75 parts, has Clerc’s distinctive octagonal shape and measures nearly 50 mm in diameter. The watch has an automatic movement with hours, minutes, seconds, power-reserve display and either a large date or second time zone. A serious diver’s watch, it is water-resistant to 1,000 meters and has a helium-release valve. Clerc also introduced a limited-edition tourbillon version of the Hydroscaph in a rose-gold/black titanium case. That one has a retrograde seconds function at 1:30 and a power-reserve indicator at 5 o’clock, along with its central attraction, an S-shaped, skeletonized, vertical tourbillon bridge, visible through the openworked dial. It is water-resistant to 500 meters and has two barrels holding a power reserve of 120 hours. (www.clercwatches.com)
Ritmo has finally introduced an automatic version of its dual-time-zone, swiveling-case Persepolis model. The Persepolis Automatique has the same patented orbital case (a colossal 54 mm in diameter and 18.5 mm thick) as its predecessor, which was equipped with two quartz movements, but now includes two Swiss-made mechanical movements to display two distinct time zones, one on each side of the Reverso-like two-sided dial. On each dial, the time and date are positioned in the upper right segment, allowing a view of the mechanical movement behind it. The case is available in five versions, including a new titanium version and some with diamonds. (www.ritmomvndo.com)
Combining design touches from historic pirate vessels with a modern “steampunk” sensibility, the new Bi-Axial Black Pearl model is the newest showcase for the bi-axial tourbillon concept first used by watch designer Fabrice Gonet in HD3’s Vulcania line. The large square, multi-part case combines titanium and black PVD. A nautical-cannon-style hatch at 9 o’clock opens up to show off the tourbillon cage in side view as well as a nameplate engraved with the owner’s name. The tourbillon does a full rotation every minute on its first axis and every 30 seconds on its second. A skull-and-crossbones flag adorns the titanium PVD plate that covers the hatch. On the other side of the case is a specially designed crown reminiscent of a frigate’s tiller. The sapphire caseback is decorated with a compass rose motif. The unconventional time display consists of the hours on the “treads” of a wheel at 9 o’clock and minutes on a disk at 12 o’clock. The power-reserve display is in the form of a sextant; the watch holds 80 hours of energy. Only 11 pieces of the Black Pearl are available, each with three strap options: rubber, black alligator leather or black vintage leather with red stitching. (www.hd3complication.com)
Louis Moinet’s new Meteoris collection consists of four tourbillon watches — each a unique piece — with rare meteorite dials. The Mars model is the first to use Martian rock from outer space in a watch dial; it has an 18k white-gold case with 56 baguette-cut diamonds. The Rosetta Stone’s dial is from the oldest known meteorite ever found on earth, estimated to be over four billion years old; it comes in an 18k rose-gold case. The mineral used for the Asteroid is from Itqiy, a mysterious asteroid found near the sun; the case is of white gold with diamonds. And the final model, Moon, which has a rose-gold case, is the first tourbillon watch equipped with a dial of authentic lunar rock. All include Louis Moinet’s exclusive manual-wound tourbillon movement, which connects the carriage to the barrel with a hand-drawn, beveled vertical bar. The barrel is openworked, allowing the watch’s owner to see the motion of the barrel spring and thus keep track of the power reserve. The 47-mm case is made up of 50 parts and is water resistant to 30 meters. The exhibition caseback offers a view of the “octopus-spring” winding mechanism, wherein a single spring activates the pull-out pieces, levers, and clicks. (www.louismoinet.com)
The design of this brand, launched in 2006, is inspired by the look of Soviet-era Russian submarines. Its new limited-edition models, called Typhoon Siberia, are the brand’s first to use grade-5 titanium — known for its exceptional shock resistance, light weight and anti-allergenic qualities — for its cases. The Siberia’s masculine, 46.5-mm case contains a chronograph movement, with hours on a subdial at 12 o’clock and minutes on a subdial at 3 o’clock. The date is indicated in a window at 8 o’clock. The watch includes Volna’s signature feature, a “safety indicator” window that confirms whether or not the double crown has been securely screwed down to make the watch water-resistant. Another brand trademark is the red Super-LumiNova used on the dial’s hands, applied numerals and oversized indices. Two versions of the Typhoon Siberia are available, one with a polished satin finish, the other with two layers of black carbon finish over the titanium for a higher degree of hardness. Each is limited to 125 pieces. (www.volnawatches.ch)
Unbeknownst to most, the man for whom today’s Chevrolet cars are named was not only a pioneer in auto racing and automotive design: he also had watches in his blood, born to a watchmaking family in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1878. Today, Louis’s name graces this young Swiss watch brand, whose models are influenced by automobile aesthetics and incorporate Chevrolet’s lucky number “8” in their designs. Its most eye-catching piece at the fair was the Driver 1911 Concept Watch, a space-age timepiece with sleek curves, sculpted to evoke the silhouette of a vintage Chevy Corvette. The watch contains two movements, visible through the “hood” of the watch in the style of an eight-cylinder racecar engine. The “dashboard” elements, built to be viewed at a 45-degree incline in the manner of a so-called driving watch, include the main dial with hours and minutes flanked by a power-reserve indicator and service indicator (with a hand counting down from 20,000 hours to the watch’s next servicing), designed in the style of odometers. The company intends to release the Driver 1911 in a limited edition of 100 pieces at the beginning of 2011 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Chevrolet Motor Car company founded by the brand’s namesake. (www.louischevrolet.ch)
ROBERT ET FILS 1630
A young brand named for a legendary Swiss watch family (Abram Robert, one of Switzerland’s first known horologists, was keeper of the town clock in Le Locle in 1630 and his descendant, Josué Robert, was official watchmaker to the King of Prussia in 1725), Robert & Fils makes watches with restored, historic movements and intricately crafted, artistic dials, using traditional artisan techniques like hand-painting, lacquered engraving and grand feu enameling. Among its featured attractions were the three unique pieces of the “Au Fil de l’Air” collection, each showcasing a hand-painted, grand feu enameled bird scene on an 18k-gold dial: the golden oriole, the kingfisher and the duck. The automatic Robert et Cie movements in the watches were originally made in the 1960s and decorated and restored in 2009; each is equipped with a 22k rose-gold, hand-engraved oscillating weight. The cases are 39 mm in diameter, fluted, and made of rose gold. (www.robertfils1630.com)
Linde Werdelin expands its SpidoLite SA family with the addition of two new models, one in all-black titanium with DLC coating and another in rose gold with black DLC details, each a limited edition of 88 pieces. These watches feature a 1970s-vintage NOS automatic movement modified in the Andersen Genève atelier of Danish watchmaker and AHCI founding member Svend Andersen (hence the “SA” initials in the model’s name). The SpidoLite is recognizable by its drilled-out case with polygonal facets, based on the notion of removing all the case’s nonessential areas. The result is a large watch (46 x 49 mm) that is nevertheless very lightweight. The design also allows for the movement to be seen through the partially skeletonized dial. An even clearer view of the retouched vintage caliber (renamed AS 1876), with its blue-gold rotor plate inscribed with the logos of Linde Werdelin and Andersen Genève, is available through the sapphire exhibition caseback. (www.lindewerdelin.com)