Swiss Watch Update.
It’s a diving watch – but then not quite a diving watch of the familiar kind. MB&F’s HM7 Aquapod is an almost entirely transparent glass case suspending in a ‘floating’ bezel, with a winding rotor said to echo the tentacles of some undersea creature.
Like a jellyfish, the makers note, it glows in the dark. But then this kind of watch – detailed, dynamic and, above all, different – set the tenor for this year’s recent Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva.
Indeed, the SIHH trade show, with its multi-million pound stands and rivers of champagne, is nothing like a trade show.
Here is where the watch world first unveils its new ideas – and if there is one over-arching idea for 2017, as many have suggested, it’s that disruption is the new normal.
Rather than follow trends, each brand is seeking to make ever more distinctive watches, either in in aesthetics, mechanics, materials or all three.
The result is a refreshing challenge to notions of refinement, taste and even what a watch should be. Here is the most striking pick of the bold crop.
ROMAINE JEROME DONKEY KONG
To a younger generation, the reference this watch makes to the classic video game may well be lost. Those older folk who remember it, however, may well be nostalgic about it.
Whether you’re so nostalgic you’d want to wear a take on Donkey Kong on your wrist is another matter. Romain Jerome has won a deserved reputation for leading the way in the bold use of graphics and unusual materials alike in its watches.
This piece, made in collaboration with Nintendo, is no exception. The video game saw the Japanese tech giant sell 696m units worldwide. There are only 81 of these watches, marking the year that Donkey Kong was released.
MONTBLANC HERITAGE CHRONOMETRIE EXO TOURBILLON RATTRAPANTE
Just what do all those fancy foreign words mean? As far as it goes for Montblanc – a company that shows that, with the right impetus, you can move from pens to serious watches, and get taken very seriously for them.
In just a few years – it means the company’s first watch to combine two complications notoriously hard to combine.
Here you’ll find the exo tourbillon – which means the balance wheel is positioned outside the tourbillon’s cage – together with a monopusher split-second chronograph.
Any the wiser? Trust us, this is not easy.
URWERK UR-T8 / Swiss watch update
Marking the 20th anniversary of this boutique brand – and it says much that Urwerk is one of a small clutch of well-established progressive watch brands that most people will never have heard of – is the launch of its first transformable watch.
With a carousel configuration for the time display (it’s made of a rotating ring of three discs of numerals, each of these discs also rotating), the whole case can be flipped over to reveal a titanium shield, thus protecting the dial. It’s a nod to Jaeger LeCoultre’s legendary Reverso, of course, and then some.
IWC DAVINCI AUTOMATIC / Swiss Watch update
A glance at the IWC Davinci hardly suggested anything radical is afoot. But, given the general move to distinction, if not outright outlandishness, the Davinci’s pared back styling – something akin to how a child might draw a watch – is something of a statement.
At 40mm is it positively dainty too – at least relative to the often outsized pieces around – and deliberately so.
IWC sees this as being a unisex model, an idea that could well catch on for future products. The gold plated numbers and hour and minute hands are nicely contrasted with that blue seconds hand.
ZENITH HERITAGE 146 / Swiss watch update
Digging in the crates, as DJs call going back through their forgotten records, has become something of a knee-jerk action among watchmakers: when in doubt, re-issue.
So when it happens it has got to be good: and Zenith’s 60s watch is that. With its dial in a ‘tropical’ brown or blue, the piece is not only 38mm – suggesting a shift towards smaller watches better suited to the all important Far Eastern market – but it comes with that historic El Primero movement too.
PANERAI LAB-ID / Swiss Watch Update
The use of carbon in watchmaking isn’t new: for years more advanced companies have used it for their cases, for example, benefiting from the material’s strength and scratch-resistance while also taking advantage of its being relatively lightweight.
But now Panerai has used it to get a step closer to a holy grail of watchmaking: the lubicant-free movement. Lubricant is vital to keep a watch running accurately – the lack of it is also why it needs regular servicing.
The LAB-ID replaces this oil with carbon nano-tubes – providing an alternative greasing of the wheels the company also guarantees for 50 years.
HUBLOT BIG BANG UNICO MAGIC SAPPHIRE
The Big Bang may long have been a staple product for Hublot but the company keeps finding new ways to reinvent it.
At first this edition looks to be all black, until you realise that you are looking through it directly on to the black skeleton movement, and that everything else about the watch – the bezel, middle, back, 45mm case – is made of transparent crystal.
That might not be magic – though making fully crystal cases remains hugely complex, and thus expensive – but it does at least make the watch virtually scratch-proof. ML
Swiss Watch Update