Smart Dressing

SIHH 2018: Five of the best watches (so far)

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Geneva’s annual fine watchmaking show begins on Monday. News is starting to trickle through…

If you know your watches you’ll know that January marks the start of watch season. Next week, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) kicks off in Geneva, which is where the likes of Cartier, IWC, Panerai and Audemars Piguet showcase their 2018 collections. News of what’s to come has started breaking – here’s a quick take on the best of what we’ve seen so far.

SIHH best watches, MontblancMontblanc TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph

To be fair to Montblanc, when launching a new line, as it did last year with it’s revamped and rethought TimeWalker collection, you don’t play all your aces at once. The 2017 collection wasn’t exactly small, but it did feel like it had a few gaps. Inevitably therefore, this year’s new batch includes a much-improved (and therefore more expensive) version of the TimeWalker Chronograph, the TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph. The key is of course in the word ‘manufacture’, which normally indicates a better, or at least more interesting movement and one that’s made in-house. In this case, that’s a column-wheel chronograph that gives the watch its 3, 6 and 9 chronograph dial layout. Two things to explain there. First is that a column-wheel is a quality signifier that greatly improves the working of the chronograph mechanism; and second, that dial layout is generally viewed as being more traditional, more aesthetically pleasing, and a pretty sure sign that the movement inside the watch isn’t an off-the-shelf job from one of Switzerland’s third-party blank movement makers. Although you’ll have to pay a premium for the manufacture version, in keeping with Montblanc’s moderate pricing strategy it’s decent value by industry standards. And as a final thought, the panda dial and brown perforated racing strap improve the looks of the watch, too.

£4,400

Best watches of SIHH, A. Lange & SohneA. Lange & Söhne 1815 ‘Homage to Walter Lange’

Last year’s SIHH was overshadowed by the death on the second day of the show of one of the watch industry’s most important figures. Walter Lange, who was 92 when he died, was responsible for reviving the great Saxon watch brand A. Lange & Söhne after the reunification of Germany in 1990 – and by extension, German watchmaking. Lange has become a collector’s choice and widely admired by those of us mere mortals who can only dream of one day owning one. In memory of the great man, Lange has launched a quartet of pieces in its 1815 collection (named after the year Walter’s great-grandfather was born), each dubbed ‘Homage to Walter Lange’. These will come in four metals and all feature a ‘jumping seconds’ complication, a Walter Lange favourite. This means the seconds hand jumps like quartz, rather than sweeps in the conventional mechanical style. Pictured here is the white gold model, which is limited to 145 pieces, and a wonderful example of clean Saxon watch design.

Price to be announced

Baume & Mercier, best watches SIHHBaume et Mercier Clifton Baumatic

Most of what comes out at SIHH is high-end – limited editions, one-offs, grandes complications, big money stuff that makes little sense in the real world. Baume et Mercier tends to buck that trend, as it has done this year by introducing a series of watches powered by what it’s calling its first in-house calibre, the Baumatic, which is beefed up with technical improvements designed to make it a better daily companion. In return for a reasonable sum, certainly by SIHH standards, you get a watch that can withstand magnetic forces of 1,500 gauss, has a meaty five-day power reserve backed up by chronometer-certification, and is generally more resilient when knocked about. On top of that, Baume is proposing five-year service intervals, which might sound boring, but given that figure is normally three years and a service costs hundreds of pounds, it will make living with a mechanical watch cheaper. An important innovation, and one that mirrors recent moves made by Rolex and Omega, among others, to make better high-volume mechanical movements.

£2,290

Best watches of SIHH, Jackal magazineJaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duoface

Strictly speaking, there’s not much that’s new about Jaeger-LeCoultre’s latest, but that doesn’t stop it from being heart-stoppingly pretty. This is the latest product of the brand’s partnership with the Argentinian bootmaker Casa Fagliano, which has supplied the watch with its two-tone cordovan leather strap. Attached to that is a pink gold version of the Reverso Tribute Duoface, which has, as the name suggests, two dials. Front side up is grey, reverse is silver, and each can be set to show a different time zone – home and away. Of course, this watch will mean a lot more to you if you play polo – the Reverso was originally made in 1931 for polo-playing officers of the Raj – but it’s also a virtuoso style statement. Only 100 of these are slated for production and they’ll only be available in the brand’s boutiques.

Price on application

Ressence Type 2 e-Crown Concept

It’s not just big-name brands at SIHH. Alongside titans of watchmaking sit a host of independents, most of which are esoteric to the point of obfuscation (boring as hell). But there are some gems in there (and a provocative one, too), one of them Ressence, the brainchild of genius Belgian designer Benôit Mintiens. His latest is the Type 2 e-Crown Concept, one of the coolest designs in all of watchmaking. The novelty is in the ‘e-Crown’, which, when boiled down, means the watch has an electronic system inside it that sits alongside the watch’s automatic mechanical movement and gives it autonomous control over its own accuracy. Add that to Ressence’s inventive way of showing the time – instead of hands, it has continuously rotating dial segments that show the time – and you have a watch that signals the best of independent-minded watchmaking, and, as others have suggested, the kind of the thing the wider industry should be doing to suck in a new generation of consumers.

Price on application