Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy: Baume & Mercier Debuts Art Deco-Inspired Hampton Collection

Perhaps in hopeful anticipation of a new “Roaring Twenties” era that may follow our current pandemic-linked economic slowdown, Swiss watchmaker Baume & Mercier has unveiled the latest update to its Art Deco inspired Hampton series. The refreshed collection, which takes its inspiration from the dominant design influence of the early 20th century, includes three new mechanical men’s watches, as well as five new quartz women’s watches, all featuring a distinct vintage style recalling notable Art Deco watches of yesteryear.

Hampton Automatic

The first watch within the updated series is the Hampton Automatic (Ref. 10522), a 43-mm x 27.5-mm steel rectangular timepiece with faceted and polished edges, matching lugs, and a thin tight-to-the-case crown. Moving underneath the rectangular sapphire crystal of the watch, we see a sectored, opaline-and-grained, silver-colored dial echoing the quadrilateral shape of the case. On the outer edge is a railroad-style rectangular minute track, with applied rectangular hour markers at each position except the 12 and 6 where applied Arabic numerals lay. At the center of the dial, two vintage-style sword hands indicate the hour and minute, while a thin stick pointer serves as the seconds counter.

Inside the Hampton Automatic is the ETA 2671 caliber, with a 38-hour power reserve, visible via a circular sapphire caseback. Each of the new watches in the Hampton line use round movements, a necessity brought on by the relative difficulty in producing original, rectangular mechanisms. The Hampton Automatic is the entry level into the Hampton men’s collection, priced by the brand at $2,450.

Hampton Automatic Date

The second watch within the refreshed Hampton collection is the new Automatic Date (Ref. 10528), which is a slightly larger version of the time-only Hampton Automatic, with the additions of a date window and small seconds subdial. This model features a 48-mm x 31-mm steel case with the same rectangular design, making it a good option for someone looking for a slightly larger watch. The dial is also very similar to that of the previous model, with all the same details on its multi-textured face. The most notable difference is in the slightly larger Arabic numerals at its 12 o’clock position matching the larger case size, as well as the 6 o’clock vintage-style seconds subdial with its red-accented 60-second mark and subtle date window at its bottom.

Inside the Automatic Date model is another ETA movement, the 2895. This mechanism is also visible via a sapphire caseback, and features a slightly longer 42-hour power reserve. The new Hampton Automatic Date is priced slightly higher than the non-date model, at $2,600.

Hampton Dual Time Automatic

The final watch within the Hampton’s men’s portfolio is the new Dual Time Automatic (Ref. 10523), the most complicated of the trio. This model uses the same 48-mm x 31-mm steel case as the Automatic Date, as well as most of the same dial features as the previous two models, but is distinguished by its additional features. We find these in the 6 o’clock subdial, which hosts a display for a second time zone, as well as in the double window just beneath the 12 o’clock marker for the date indication.

This new model contains the Soprod TT651 automatic caliber, a somewhat uncommon movement based upon the ETA 2892-A2, through distinguished foremost by its GMT (dual-time-zone) functionality and “big date,” which fills the two windows on the dial. This movement is capable of a 42-hour power reserve and, like its siblings, is visible behind a sapphire caseback. To accompany the extra features of the watch, the Dual Time Automatic also has a somewhat higher price tag, retailing for $4,050.

Hampton Women’s

As part of the rebooted Hampton collection, Baume & Mercier is also offering five new quartz models geared towards the women’s market, each using the same base design though differentiated in their dial color and choice of bracelet. Each of the watches feature a smaller 34.1-mm x 22-mm case, all using the same Art Deco rectangular style seen on the larger men’s models with their faceted and polished edges and tight, slim crown. On the dial of the watches we find a simple non-sectored style, with a time-only display and an outer rectangular minute ring, applied numerals, and very slim vintage sword hands.The watches are available in a silvered dial with either rhodium or gold-accented dial features; a sunray blue dial model; and a diamond-set mother-of-pearl variation, each coming equipped with either a triple-link steel bracelet or a tapered leather strap.

Inside each of the ladies’ Hampton watches is a Swiss quartz movement dubbed the caliber MHH057 by the brand, which Baume & Mercier says has a seven-year reliability. The models range in price from $1,500 to $2,000.

The Hampton In Context

Each of the watches in the new Hampton collection takes obvious influence from the Art Deco period in watch design, though it doesn’t seem the collection directly recalls any specific vintage model produced by the brand. Baume & Mercier doesn’t explicitly cite any specific source material, but the company has been in business since 1830, and during the 1920s to 1940s likely developed a number of rectangular Art Deco-style pieces in line with the tastes of the time. In 1918 the brand reportedly launched its first rectangular-type piece with the women’s “baignoire,” or bathtub-shaped watches, which continued their run through the 1920s. The brand also officially launched its rectangular Hampton series in 1940 (picture below via The Jewellery Editor), which has remained as a rectangular, Art Deco influenced staple in its offerings ever since.

Yet, looking at the updated collection and placing it in the context of other historical Art Deco-inspired designs, we can foremost see the apparent influence of what is often considered the most famous watch of the period, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso (vintage model pictured below) — which was actually not launched until 1931, even though the 1920s is often portrayed as the era most significantly influenced by Art Deco.

Nonetheless, the influences of the Reverso are seen in the rectangular outer minute ring, applied hour markers, and even the Arabic numerals — which while not seen on the original Reverso were still common elements on some Art Deco pieces between the ‘20s and ‘40s. Other influences are seen in the small, flattened crown, as well as the unique shape of the sword hands. The rectangular sectioning of the dial and, of course, the rectangular shape of the case are also obvious elements of the Art Deco Age, both seen on many watches from the period rather than any one specific model.  

While the new Hampton collection is strongly influenced by a vintage school of watch design, we do note several modern elements. Foremost, the construction of the watch is likely much sturdier than watches produced potentially over a century ago, with many watches of the era quite flimsy by comparison. Also, while steel was in use during the era these watches evoke, it’s much more common today to see historical, rectangular dress watches cased in gold, so it is somewhat surprising the brand didn’t release a new gold edition — though it may certainly still do so in the future. Further, each of the models feature multi-textured dials, which is a modern development of the simpler sectored dials seen on vintage models. Finally, the men’s models use modern automatic movements, visible through round sapphire casebacks, while the women’s models contain very contemporary quartz mechanisms. One men’s model — the Dual Time Automatic — even has a moon phase and a GMT mechanism, both unheard of in a wristwatch during the vintage era.  

While Baume & Mercier is the latest brand to release an Art Deco influenced watch, it certainly is not the only participant in the rising trend. Others have included Bulova, with its Joseph Bulova series; Hamilton, with its Boulton watch within the American Classic collection; and even more luxurious brands like Cartier and Vacheron Constantin, with their Privé and Historiques collections, respectively. Such watches, across the price spectrum, seem to indicate a developing trend within the growing “neo-vintage” category, shifting focus from watches of the 1940s onward to those from earlier in the 20th century as well. That brands are looking to capitalize upon a predicted rise in interest in the Art Deco style as we enter the 2020s is also evident, though whether the prediction proves accurate remains to be seen.

To learn more about the new Hampton collection and to inquire for purchase, you can visit Baume & Mercier’s online shop, here.

Want to learn more about modern Art Deco influenced watches? Read our story from April, “Deco by Design: Six of Our Favorite Watches Inspired by Art Deco,” here!

Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer located outside of New York City. Since entering the world of watches, he has spent much of his time exploring the neo-vintage trend covering historically inspired, modern timepieces. Today, Caleb finds his greatest interests in utilitarian designs with outsized value propositions and in the personal stories behind up-and-coming brands.

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