Each January, the SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) kicks off the watchmaking world’s calendar. The exhibition usually sets the tone for the rest of the year, so it’s studied closely by the industry as well as by timepiece collectors and aficionados.
But typically, around November the previous year, watchmaking companies start issuing pre-SIHH novelties. Like movie trailers building anticipation for the films’ actual theatrical releases, these teasers are meant to whet horological appetites for what’s to come at the fair.
For the watch press, the teasers provide useful material for content, especially during the traditionally “quiet” weeks in late December and early January. Those magazine pages and webpages aren’t going to fill themselves, right? And speaking of webpages, here’s what some of the most influential watch blogs and publications are saying about the novelties.
ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE CHRONOGRAPH
With the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph being an Audemars Piguet bestseller, the company took to declaring three new additions to the family. Specifically, it built on the popularity of a military-inspired model released in early 2018: The three novelties are clad in camouflage colourways.
Noted Singaporean collector/watch journalist Su Jia Xian, who runs watchesbysjx.com, published a straightforward description of the watches. But, in keeping with his practice, he also included retail prices in Singapore dollars – useful for local collectors.
The influential local blog Deployant also carried news of this trio, saying that “The colours look stunning in the press photographs, and we look forward to seeing and photographing them live in SIHH.” The report ended with a teaser: “According to Audemars Piguet, their new 2019 collection promises many more surprises. Stay tuned.”
SANTOS, LIBRE AND PRIVE
Cartier was the most prolific of all the watchmakers, announcing its novelties in three tranches: the Prive collection in late November; the Libre series in mid-December; and a new variation of the Santos just last week.
Su provided coverage of all reveals. Not surprising, considering how he was once the moderator of the Cartier forum on PuristSPro.com.
Of Prive – a new line of tonneau-shaped men’s watches – he noted that it’s “a nod to Collection Privee Cartier Paris (CPCP), a line of high-end mechanical watches produced for a decade starting in 1998”. He also argued that its reincarnation is the result of its absence having “made collectors’ hearts grow fonder”.
Of Libre – a collection of four bejewelled women’s watches– he gave a succinct description of the watches’ specifications and offered estimated retail prices as well.
The latest Santos variant features a blue dial, which Su says lends the watch a “slightly more sporty feel”. He also noted the subtle design details, observing the degrade effect of the blue colouration and the “unusual” Roman numerals, which come with a mirrored finish.
LAUREATO PERPETUAL CALENDAR
According to Revolution, the new Laureato Perpetual Calendar is part of Girard-Perregaux’s “ongoing effort to keep the Laureato collection in a steady state of growth”. The report also highlighted that the movement, Calibre GP01800-0033, was developed from scratch, and designed to be as user-friendly as possible.
“Ease of use on the new calibre is ensured by the fact that the date, month and leap year indicator can all be adjusted using the crown, both backwards and forward,” it read. In some perpetual calendar watches, the indications have to be adjusted using a stylus-like corrector.
A Blog to Watch contributor Kenny Yeo couldn’t help but notice how the dial resembled a smiley face, thanks to the layout of the indications. He was also impressed by the relative svelteness of the case thickness (11.84mm) – “remarkable for a sports watch with a perpetual calendar complication” – and by its decent water resistance rating (100m) – “making it a watch that you can truly and confidently take to the water”.
Being a pillar of Hermes’s timepiece collection, it was only right that the Arceau receive a makeover for the model’s 40th anniversary in 2018.
Besides having its case enlarged to 40mm, the Arceau 78 also welcomed an aesthetic upgrade. As Crown Watch Blog’s Editor-in-Chief Alvin Wong wrote, “what really makes the Arceau 78 stand out is the bead-blasted finish on the bezel and anthracite dial”, although he would have “loved the watch even more if it came with an automatic movement”.
Meanwhile, Watchesbysjx’s Su wasn’t too concerned by this feature. “Like the majority of Arceau models, the watch is powered by a fuss-free, Swiss-made quartz movement,” he remarked.
The world’s most influential watch publication, US-based hodinkee.com, carried only one report of the pre-SIHH watches: IWC’s Pilot’s Watches. This quartet comprises the Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium; Chronograph Spitfire (Bronze); Timezoner Spitfire Edition “The Longest Flight”; and Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince”.
The new editions, said Hodinkee Senior Writer James Stacey, “show the breadth of technology, watchmaking, and style available in what is likely IWC's core product line”. Of the four, the Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium was the one he was “most interested to see” in real life.
Deployant gave a fairly detailed overview of the watches, making sure to highlight the brand’s technical firsts. For example, the Timezoner Spitfire Edition “The Longest Flight” is the first-ever IWC model to combine the patented Timezoner mechanism with an entirely automatic IWC-manufactured movement.
For Watchesbysjx, the two Spitfire editions were the most significant, because “all Spitfire watches will now be equipped with in-house, or manufacture, movements [as opposed to stock ETA or Sellita movements]” – a move enabled by the recent opening of a new manufacturing facility in Schaffhausen.
Su also noted that IWC is the main sponsor behind Silver Spitfire – The Longest Flight, a round-the-world flight involving a WWII-era Spitfire happening this summer.
MASTER ULTRA-THIN MOON ENAMEL
With cases just 10.4mm high or less, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Ultra-Thin collection is impressive in its own right. But the focus of this new variant is on the dial decoration, specifically, the artistic traditions of guillochage (a type of engraving) and enamelling.
Deployant pointed out that “Jaeger-LeCoultre remains one of the few Manufactures offering gem-setting, engraving, guillochage and enamelling at its workshops, artistic techniques that require delicate and subtle work”, and that “the guilloche enamel… features a deep, intense midnight blue which achieves perfect harmony with the case of this limited edition”.
Singapore-based watch authority Revolution also sang praises of the dial treatment. Editor-in-Chief Darren Ho wrote, “Rose engine turning is a special art… But it’s highly prized, as the way it reflects and scatters light over the patterned surface creates a mesmerising visual effect.”
Crown Watch Blog’s Managing Editor Melissa Kong summed up the general sentiment: “While it’s slender and sophisticated, what’s most striking… is really how gorgeous the dial looks. If Jaeger-LeCoultre’s point was to drive home its artistic capabilities, this model is right on the money.”
STAR LEGACY NICOLAS RIEUSSEC CHRONOGRAPH AND TIMEWALKER CHRONOGRAPH
For its pre-SIHH 2019 offering, Montblanc revisited and refreshed two pillar collections: Nicolas Rieussec and TimeWalker.
The Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph was updated with anthracite-coloured dials. And even though the watch wears large with a diameter of 44.8mm and thickness of 15.02mm, Watchesbysjx’s Cheryl Chia thought that the “rounded surfaces and curves make it seem less aggressively large compared to similarly sized chronographs.”
As for the TimeWalker collection, which received two new chronograph models with reverse panda dials (white chronograph sub-dials on a black main dial), Chia described the pieces as having “retro-racing car vibes”. While both watches appear similar at a glance, the Automatic Chronograph is powered by a Sellita movement while the Manufacture Chronograph is driven by an in-house engine. And there are a host of subtle details that set the watches apart, all of which are dutifully noted by Chia.
SUBMERSIBLE CHRONO GUILLAUME NERY EDITION (PAM 982)
With a water resistance rating of 300m, the PAM 982 is made for French freediving champion Guillaume Nery.
A Blog to Watch Contributing Editor Zach Pina thought that the watch worked well from a design standpoint – “the striking blue tones and textures feel like a natural match to the source inspiration” – but felt that its flyback chronograph movement didn’t offer “any real benefit to a freediver”.
Watchesbysjx’s Chia had no such issues. “Despite being a complicated dive watch, the Submersible Chrono is legible, thanks to its smart chronograph layout,” she wrote.
TORIC CAPITOLE AND TONDA METROPOLITAINE SELENE
Su observed that while the wandering hours mechanism used on the Toric Capitole isn’t a new device, it’s being put “on show for the first time, instead of being hidden underneath the dial”. He also pointed out that although the intricate pattern on the dial is repeating, it’s actually done by hand, not with a machine.
The handiwork found on the Tonda Metropolitaine Selene, a ladies’ watch with a moon phase indication, delighted the folks at Deployant as well. “Decorative operations carried out by hand give it a tangible and unique value,” read the blog entry, in reference to the treatment of the rose gold moon and its realistic craters.
ALTIPLANO TOURBILLON METEORITE
Although Monochrome Watches’ Editor Rebecca Doulton felt that Piaget’s Altiplano Tourbillon Meteorite wasn’t an “earth-shattering novelty”, she said it still had “a lot going for it”.
She was impressed by how the watchmaker/jeweller fitted the meteorite dial into the ultra-thin (7.4mm-thick) case. “Cutting meteorite into wafer-thin slices is not the easiest of tasks”, she observed, but “Piaget’s background in gemstone cutting came in handy to whittle it down to size”. Doulton also thought that the eccentric dial layout worked well, “giving the functions a kind of planetary/orbiting feel”.
Watchesbysjx’s Su gave some insight into the meteorite itself. “The meteorite used for watch dials is of the iron variety, made up mostly of iron and nickel. It’s grey in its natural state, with a distinctive, streaky Widmanstatten pattern created by the nickel-iron crystals inside. Iron meteorite is usually etched with acid to bring out the definition of the Widmanstatten pattern, and can also be coloured, which is what Piaget has done,” he wrote.
LES CABINOTIERS GRANDE COMPLICATION PHOENIX
Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers is a bespoke watchmaking department that creates mechanically and artistically intricate pieces for the well-heeled. This year’s offer is a Grande Complication watch with 15 complications (or functions), including a perpetual calendar and a minute repeater. It’s housed in an elaborate case hand-engraved with a phoenix motif.
Crown Watch Blog’s Wong called it “a watch so majestic that it deserves a mini palace of its own”. He was blown away by both the complexity of the movement (it has 602 parts) as well as by the beauty of the case, which takes 300 hours – that’s around two months’ work – to engrave.
The Deployant team was also full of admiration. Of the movement (Calibre 2755) and its 15 complications, the report said: “The watchmakers of the Les Cabinotiers department have succeeded in accommodating all these functions within the limited space of the case by maximum miniaturisation of all components, while preserving their reliability.”