At the end of January, Geneva hosted the first major exposition in the horology business: the ‘Salon International de la Haute Horologerie’. From the 17th to the 20th, the Swiss city became the beating (or should I say ticking?) heart of the business of watches, unveiling the finest novelties of the major brands in watchmaking and setting the trends for the year to come.
Attracted by the great display of fine craftsmanship and driven by the passion for watches, I decided to visit the Salon profiting by the public opening held on Friday the 20th.
Geneva presented a great display of luxury, from hotels to boutiques, from cars to (sigh) prices. After a quick (read: expensive) lunch and a visit to the shop (read: palace) of his majesty Patek Philippe, I eventually headed to the Salon.
Ah stereotypes! Everything was as sharp as a Swiss blade. From the shuttle that took me to the exposition to the collection of badges and the wardrobe, everything was quick and smooth.
And just like that, I was entering one of the major horology gatherings in the world.
The atmosphere was really casual and relaxed, even if the amount of personalities and money involved were beyond saying.
Despite the fact watchmaking is quite an ancient art and often referred to as one of the most ‘classical’ fields in the luxury sector, it cannot be immune to modern lifestyle. Quite a few brands decided to cope with this aspect in different ways and a widespread effort was made towards a technological involvement of the client.
For instance, the Roger Dubuis‘ stand featured some digital vision equipment that allowed the customer to live the experience of the assemblage of a watch through the eyes of a watchmaker. Also, Jaeger-LeCoultre provided a special elastic bracelet that could be read by a camera that projected on screen the featured watch on your wrist. (Sounds complicated but it really wasn’t: you had to wear the bracelet, place it under the screen and look at the watch on your wrist. Pretty cool right?)
Companies were also very attentive to the engagement of new generations, an aspect becoming more and more important in a market suffering for millennials’ quest for experiences over sheer ownership.
In my opinion, the best example regarding this line of thought was provided by Baume & Mercier. In fact, their new ‘Clifton Club’ models are directly addressed to sportive and young gentlemen or, as they were arguably defined, gentlesportsman. Also, the stand presented the funniest feature of the whole Salon consisting in two surf simulators on which attenders could compete in a sort of interactive course. Simple and entertaining, it helped to lighten the mood and overall amuse the visitors for a while.
All in all, many were the historical brands presenting their new models, mostly coming from the great ensemble of the Richemont group: Panerai, Vacheron Constantin, Cartier, Montblanc, Van Cleef & Arples, Ulysse Nardin, Piaget and Iwc to name a few. There was also a wing of the salon fully dedicated to independent watchmakers such as Voutilainen, Laurent Ferrier, MB&F, Romain Jerome and others.
To conclude, here are my top choices for the SIHH 2017. They may not be the greatest and most complicated pieces but they certainly are the models that were talked about the most in the specialized watchmaking press.
– Richard Mille RM 67-01 Extra Flat
The model launched in 2016 still expresses all of Richard Mille’s attitude. Technology, materials and sleek design contribute in creating this extra flat model I fell in love with at first sight. (Love that quickly faded when I was told the entry price for this piece is 85.000$). Anyway, besides the classical rounded case, this is one of my personal favourite case shapes. It is called tonneau, which is the French equivalent for ton or barrel, meaning a barrel-shaped watch case.
If you want to know more about Richard Mille click here.
– Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph
One of the most interesting novelties at the Salon were the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control models with two tone dial. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Master Control collection JLC released three special edition watches: a Master Control Date, Chronograph and Geograhic, all vintage-inspired with blue hands and accents. I chose the Chronograph because of its vintage allure and its clean and balanced dial. In my opinion one of the best value-for-money pieces in the whole Salon. (Price for the Chronograph version: 8.200$).
If you want to know more about Jaeger-LeCoultre click here.
– A. Lange & Shöne Turbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite”
Coming from the historical manufacturing house of A. Lange & Shöne this limited edition of 50 platinum pieces couldn’t be anything but great. It unites five grand complications: perpetual calendar, chronograph, rattrapante, fusée-and-chain transmission and tourbillon. Each of the 684 components is carefully brushed and finished. (Wait, just in case you are skimming through the article. Read again. Six-hundreds-and-eighty-four-components. In a 43mm case. Now that’s something!). The watch has 36 hours of power reserve and it also features a black alligator leather strap. (Price: 480.000$)
If you want to know something more about A. Lange & Shone click here.
– Richard Mille RM 50-03 (Tourbillon split secs chrono ultralight McLaren F1)
Simply the lightest split second chronograph ever made, in a limited edition of 75 pieces. The design strictly recalls the world of Formula 1 and McLaren. For instance, the crown and the pushers are respectively inspired by the wheel rims and the air vents of the F1 car. It is also the first wristwatch made in Graph TPT, a special material obtained by injecting a resin containing graphene into layers of carbon fibers. Undoubtedly the watch who raised the most different opinions in the specialized press, both for its great innovations and its crazy price range (980.000$).
– Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic
Hands down the hottest watch of SIHH 2017. It may not be the most innovative or the most complicated but it surely is crazy good-looking. It is a classic Royal Oak perpetual calendar from the worldwide known brand AP, with a great novelty: the case is not made in steel nor gold, but it is in matte black, brushed ceramic. Besides the movement inside, it is this very case and bracelet that made history for AP, both considered among the finest in the world of haute horology. Having them in ceramic this year is definitely something worth noting. The case took 600 hours to develop and it takes 30 hours just to polish, finish and assemble one ceramic bracelet for one Royal Oak. The dial is AP’s famous “Grande Tapisserie” in grey with black registers. (Price around 85.000$)
More information on Audemars Piguet here.