Panerai Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio – 44 mm
Last year Panerai launched its P.5000 in-house, manual-wind movement in two Luminor Marina models, and for 2014, the P.5000 finds several new homes, including the 44 mm Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio. This may be an entry-level Panerai but, in my opinion, it ticks just the right boxes. The classic Luminor case and crown guard, coupled with the black sandwich dial, creates a pure Panerai look that is hard to fault, and though it may be Panerai’s Sportster, the 44-mm case suits those with average-size wrists and understated taste. When you say “Panerai” to an average watch enthusiast, this is the look most of them picture.
The exhibition caseback provides a nice view of the P.5000 movement, though the view consists primarily of a massive plate that provides great structural rigidity, but little aesthetic pleasure. The movement runs in 21 jewels at a classic 21,600 vph, or 3 Hz. In another sign of strength, the balance wheel is supported by a sturdy bridge that is fixed by two screws, beneath which are threaded rings that turn in both directions. This construction facilitates adjustments to the endshake of the balance staff pivots, and it provides added shock protection. The variable inertia balance is another hat-tip to traditional watchmaking. The eponymous eight-day power reserve is achieved by coupling two spring barrels with toothed rims, in series. Panerai says the twin assembly enables longer, thinner springs to be used, resulting in a longer duration and greater uniformity in delivering energy to the movement.
Panerai tells us that the U.S. price for the Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio is currently set at $7,800, but that this is subject to change.
Calibre de Cartier Diver
IWC’s new divers’ watches were a big story at SIHH, but Cartier’s new divers’ watch generated more buzz. The concept of a Cartier divers’ watch seems to get people talking, and the product is very nice as well. Visually, the Calibre de Cartier Diver carries over the signature design cues introduced in 2010 with the launch of the original Calibre de Cartier. However the Diver is not just a Calibre with a new bezel. Cartier re-worked the case to make sure the pretty face has some substance behind it. Four little numbers required that the Calibre case be rebuilt: 6425, as in ISO 6425, the international standard for divers’ watches. This set of standards is not easily met, and indeed relatively few watches on the market are ISO 6425-certified. In a nutshell, the standards cover the bezel and dial (motion and elapsed time display); legibility in light and dark conditions, an ability to tell whether the watch is running (usually satisfied with a luminous seconds hand); magnetic, shock, and chemical resistance; and strap and springbar strength (the strap or bracelet and the springbars must withstand 45 pounds of stress). The watch must also be water-resistant to 100 meters [corrected – original read 300 meters].
To meet the standards, Cartier had to design a new watch case from the ground up, and they did it while keeping a careful eye on the brand’s design codes, which meant keeping the case thin. The new case is only 11 mm thick, despite the use of a thicker sapphire crystal. A screw-in crown helps assure 300 meter water resistance. The divers’ bezel rotates in 120 increments controlled by three clicks, enabling half-minute adjustments. The dial is well-supplied with Super-LumiNova for excellent visibility under water. Beneath the dial ticks Cartier’s in-house caliber 1904 MC. The movement features ceramic ball bearings in the bi-directional automatic winding system and twin mainspring barrels to guarantee consistent torque delivery during the full power reserve.
The Calibre de Cartier Diver in stainless steel on a rubber strap will retail for $8,200. A steel bracelet raises the ante to to $8,900.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin
In 1903, Jacques-David LeCoultre rose to Edmond Jaeger’s challenge to create “the world’s thinnest movements”. In 1907, their encounter gave rise to LeCoultre Calibre 145 – a Lépine 17-ligne pocket-watch movement– the thinnest in the world at just 1.38 mm. Jaeger-LeCoultre has been creating ultra-thin movements ever since. Today, the Master Ultra Thin name holds a special place in the hearts of many enthusiasts. At SIHH, JLC launched a new model in a 38.5 mm x 7.58 mm case, and because it will be available in steel, it finds its way onto our list. This watch offers classic good looks and a well-respected ultra-thin automatic manufacture Caliber 896 movement that stands just 3.98 mm high. It consists of 223 parts and it runs in 32 jewels at 28,800 vph for 43 hours on a single wind.
The steel model bears reference 127 84 20, and it will retail for $8,500.
Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar
At SIHH, Montblanc launched a new collection of timepieces to honor the 90th anniversary of the brand’s famous Meisterstück writing instruments. The Meisterstück Heritage Collection contains four timepieces. The Pulsograph bi-compax chronograph generated the most buzz, but for our purposes, you can hardly do better than the perpetual calendar in steel. The Montblanc Heritage Perpetual offers an absolutely classic presentation. The case measures 39 mm in diameter and 10.24 mm thick. Small blued hands provide the calendar indications. The date is shown at 3 o’clock, the day of the week at 9, and the month at 12. On the inner scale of the month display, the leap-year cycle is shown by a blue triangle and a red “4” indicates the leap year. The moon’s phases are displayed in a window at 6 o’clock, and the moon’s age is indicated in days at this window’s upper edge.
The automatic-winding movement is Montblanc Caliber MB 29.15. Each calendar indication has its own inset button in the side of the case, allowing each indication to be set independently. The movement ticks at 28,800 vph and has 25 jewels. The power reserve is 42 hours. Each Montblanc Heritage Perpetual Calendar watch is subjected to Montblanc’s 500-hour quality test at the manufacture in Le Locle. According to Montblanc, the test verifies the accuracy of the watch’s rate, its water resistance, the functionality of the individual displays, and the timepiece’s “overall performance and robustness.” Each watch that passes the 500-hour test is issued a test certificate. Last year at SIHH, Jaeger-LeCoultre presented its Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar, and enthusiasts swooned when they learned it would be offered in steel priced at $19,900. Montblanc may not yet have achieved JLC’s brand aura, and Montblanc’s perpetual does not offer a four-digit year display, but in steel, Montblanc’s perpetual calendar is priced at only $12,800, which makes it a bona fide haute horlogerie bargain.
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This article was originally published on February 6, 2014, and has been updated.