While nearly every watch brand exhibiting at Baselworld puts forth at least one notable headliner piece each year, those of us who cover the industry often find many of the new offerings to be somewhat on the predictable side. Occasionally, we’ll see something truly unexpected, like Patek Philippe’s Calatrava Travel Time, or Bulgari’s “connected” luxury watch, the Diagono Magnesium, both introduced at this year’s fair. And sometimes, some of the smaller or more under-the-radar brands will come up with something memorable that few would have predicted — mainly because few were probably thinking about them at all. Here are three pleasant surprises from WatchTime’s Baselworld 2015 tour.
Hermès introduced a perpetual calendar watch in its new Slim d’Hermès collection.
Despite its recent strides in luxury watchmaking — including its development of a very clever and distinctive complication for its Arceau le Temps Suspendu watch — Hermès is not generally regarded as a purveyor of high- complication timepieces. Which is why the fact that the brand, known more for top-notch leather goods, included a perpetual calendar watch in its newly introduced Slim d’Hermès collection, came as such a surprise. The Slim d’Hermès collection is distinguished by its broad dial opening, right-angled lugs, the original, elegant typography used for the hour markers (designed by La Montre Hermès creative director Philippe Delhotal), and, of course, the exceptional thinness of the cases and the movement inside them. That movement, Hermès Caliber 1950, measures just 2.6 mm thick and is produced by the movement specialists at Vaucher, in which Hermès holds an ownership stake.
The Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar is certainly the show horse of the new family, with a 39.5-mm case made of 5N rose gold and a perpetual calendar movement (the base Caliber 1950 with an added module produced by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his team at Aghenor, who also worked on the Arceau le Temps Suspendu as well as notable watches from brands such as MB&F. The module adds only a minuscule 1.4 mm to the overall movement). The watch’s opaline silvered dial has a four-year display that indicates months and leap years, subdials for a dual-time/GMT function and date, and a moon-phase indication with a white mother-of-pearl moon disk against an aventurine sky. The baton hands are 4n-gilded or lacquered blue and sandblasted. The movement, which is equipped with a microrotor for automatic winding, beats at 21,600 vph and holds a power reserve of 42 hours. Its haute horlogerie decorations include hand-chamfered bridges and the brand’s Hermes “H” motif. The Slim d’Hermes Perpetual Calendar comes on an alligator strap, in either matte havana (brown) or matte black, with a rose-gold pin buckle. Hermes says it will retail for $38,900.
Cuervo y Sobrinos launched a limited-edition chronograph with a vintage 1950s movement discovered in Cuba.
The Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Cronógrafo Landeron shows its vintage influence not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. The watch, whose dial design springs from that of one of the brand’s historical models from the 1950s, also contains a movement that dates to that era — a Landeron 248 manual-wind chronograph caliber, made in Switzerland around 1950, which was recently discovered in the vault of the original Cuervo y Sobrinos boutique in the company’s ancestral homeland of Havana, Cuba. Now dubbed Caliber CyS 4008, it measures 31 mm in diameter and 4.3 mm in thickness; it holds a power reserve of 38 hours.
The 18k rose gold case is 41 mm in diameter with a period-accurate domed (though not made of acrylic hesalite) sapphire crystal as well as — naturally — a sapphire window in the back of the case to show off the spectacular vintage movement in all its painstakingly restored glory.
The watch — a limited edition of just 50 pieces due to the extremely small supply of movements — has an enameled white dial with a tachymeter scale and two subdials at 3 o’clock (45-minutes chronograph counter) and 9 o’clock (running seconds). Gold-colored Breguet hands mark the hour and minute, and a similarly colored Cuervo y Sobrinos “CYS” emblem is applied at 12 o’clock. The case boasts the very distinctive lugs of the historically-inspired Historiador collection. Priced at $2,500, the Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Cronografo Landeron comes on a Louisiana alligator strap with a rose-gold pin buckle engraved with the CYS logo.
Manufacture Royale offered up an entirely new take on the double-tourbillon watch.
Manufacture Royale has produced some interesting tourbillon timepieces in recent years, including a few with more than one tourbillon. The new 1770 Micromegas — named for the titular hero of a short story by French writer/philosopher Voltaire, who founded the original Manufacture Royale watch factory in 1770 — takes this horological innovation to a new level of technology. Whereas other brands have produced watches with two tourbillons — you can read about some of them here — this is the first such watch in which the tourbillon cages rotate at different speeds. The cage on the left makes one revolution every six seconds, whereas the one on the right makes the same revolution in 60 seconds (Hence the “Micro,” meaning small, and “Megas,” large). The two tourbillons are connected by a differential that receives energy directly from the barrel. Speaking of the barrel, the power reserve it holds is definitely more “megas” than “micro”: 80 hours when fully wound. The movement, Caliber MR04, even includes automatic winding — not unique, but still rather rare in the world of tourbillon watches.
The case construction is typical of Manufacture Royale’s 1770 collection, made of titanium (45 mm in diameter) and featuring brancards hugging the central section and flowing out to form the distinctive lugs. A combination of satin and polished finishes adorn the various curved and angled edges. The notched bezel is also made of titanium, as is the dial, which is also coated with a rubber-effect black-lacquer varnish that contrasts strikingly with the blued, openworked hour and minute hands. The caseback features a sapphire window to display the movement. The Manufacture Royale 1770 will retail for $151,000 in its all-titanium version (pictured). The company says it will also offer a version in rose gold and titanium for $163,000 and an all-rose-gold model for $181,500.