SIHH 2011: TourBULLion’s 8 minute speed- run

 

 

SIHH 2011! Wanna impress your luxury-watch loving colleagues with your ‘up- to- date’ knowledge of the largest watch event of 2011 (until Baselworld comes along that is) but don’t have the time or patience to read through those 40- page event reports filled with technical jargon? Then look no further – TourBULLion’s got all the fluff you need to hobnob with horological high- society! Just spend ten eight minutes reading this article and you’ll be enriched with enough superficial knowledge that will ensure that they’ll ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at your every fluffy comment!

Hot Horology... heh

This year, SIHH was held in Geneva from 17 to 19 Jan 2011; 19 brands participated in total, including all those in the Richemont Group, along with other affiliated or allied companies too snobbish to showcase at Basel. The main brands were A. Lange & Sohne, Audemars Piquet, Vacheron Constantin, IWC, Jaeger- Lecoultre, Cartier, Panerai, Girard- Perregaux, Richard Mille, Montblanc, Piaget, Baume and Mercier and a handful of others I wouldn’t worry about. In keeping with the everyday- watch theme of this blog, TourBULLion deliberately ignored all the ludicrously expensive novelties (because the brands wouldn’t let us handle them anyway) and focused primarily on the ‘standard luxury’ wares.

Unfortunately though, our reporter ate some very dubious caviar and was ‘indisposed’ for the majority of the exhibition. While he did summon up all his reserves to compile this report, a couple of the brands have inevitably been left out: his feeble excuse was that these brands weren’t the ones that ‘normal’ people would buy anyway. Whatever – without further ado, we give you, TourBULLion’s SIHH 2011 Eight Minute Speed-run (for selected brands) !

 

 

A. Lange & Sohne (AL&S)

This year, Lange has spruced up some of their entry models to make them more attractive and affordable to us poor people. The Saxonia (pronounced ZAAAAARGHsonia) line (home to watches that are the least expensive in the whole AL&S stable) gets several new additions. I won’t bore you with the obligatory ladies’ models, but the men’s range gets an elegant and functional dual timezone watch, the Saxonia Dual Time. The short hand shows you the hour in your home-base, and the watch has an automatic 72- hour power reserve. Well call me a heretic, but I really think a date would be rather useful when you’re traveling overseas and flying into another timezone. And I hate to say it, but if I wanted elegant and functional I think I’d rather look at Rolex or Jaeger instead – they too have the prestige and are priced at a point which I’m far more comfortable with.

But what would Lange be without their grand complications? By now you would have seen the Zeitwerk which AL&S introduced two years ago at the same event, it’s all over watch magazines, newspapers and those high- society publications that always have an old man on the cover smoking a pipe. This year, Lange introduces an enhanced version of the Zeitwerk, the Zeitwerk Striking Time. The Striking Time essentially incorporates an acoustic element into Lange’s flagship timepeice: two little hammers have been tucked into the lower corners of the dial; pressure builds up winding the hammers back and at 15minute intervals the catches are released, the hammers surge forward striking the gong which makes a sound like ‘ping’! Just hope that Lange remembered to incorporate a silent mode for all those high- powered boardroom meetings.

Fluff Statement: “Lange is at a point where I think they can do dazzling complications and superb high-end timepieces but never quite seem to be able to tie down a decent entry- level collection. It’s like a chef who can make the best Lobster Thermidor but can’t prepare a decent fish and chips.”


Audemars Piguet (AP)
The Audemars Piguet ‘Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger – The Legacy Chronograph’ is a mouthful to pronounce and will fit only on persons with very wide wrists. Designed in partnership with the ex- Governor of California (he probably picked the colour of the screws or something), this monster from AP has a blackened ceramic case as well as a bezel and is peppered with rosegold hour- markers and inserts for a standout look. 48mm wide, it comes in a fabric strap and most certainly guaranteed to cost an arm and leg, now that Arnie’s officially unemployed. On the other hand, it does show Hublot who’s the boss again when it comes to designing mean bad- ass OTT watches.

Fluff Statement: “A great way to mark Arnold’s longstanding relationship with AP, it is an improvement on 2007′s Arnold’s All Stars, but no T3.”

There was a time when I thought AP was only making Royal Oak Offshores, because let’s face it, there’s where they’re really making their money from. Their other models get far less coverage and exposure, which is a shame because I really like their Millenary line. Most of them are elegantly outlandish and previous models in the lineup have an exaggerated art- deco feel to them. This year, AP introduces the Millenary 4101, which looks like it carries armor plating on the dial. But before you start thinking that it adds a +20 to your watch’s defence stat, remember that the whole movement is exposed in plain sight. The whole arrangement looks bizarre, but very pretty, and its a pretty watch that men can appreciate, with the armor plating, the mechanical feel of the movement and exposed screws and gold accented- hour- dish.

The other Millenary model that was on display was not new, having been introduced last year, but its still great to see it in person. The Millenary Minute Repeater makes little chiming noises that are likely only audible to ants, but should suffice to remind insomniacs that they’re not asleep yet in the middle of the night.

Fluff Statement: None. Can’t get fluffy with Millenaries, people who know them will suss you out and shoot you down in an instant.

Baume and Mercier (B&M)

I

I won’t pretend that I know all the brands here and Baume and Mercier is one of those brands that I don’t know enough of. Except that my elder brother has a Riviera of some sort and he keeps reminding me that B&M is an older brand than say, Jaeger LeCoultre (which is true – ed).  My only problem with Baume is that their designs generally haven’t been very interesting. Its a bit like driving a Toyota saloon. Reliable, but somewhat unremarkable.

Which was a real surprise for me when I saw the Capeland Chronograph Flyback. I like a lot of watches with the classic white-dial and blue-hands combination and this one is no exception.  This is a really handsome watch, exuding a kind of vintage-y elegance of a bygone era (which era is open to debate: its not exactly an aviator’s ‘s watch but it reminds of one, such as Longines’ Lindberg Atlantic Voyage). I like the font  (I think its Trebuchet) and although I generally dislike cluttered dials the placement and execution of the razor- thin telemetric / tachymetric scale- lines actually does much to accentuate the romantic feel of this timepiece. A very well thought-out design.

Fluff Statement: “In the Capeland Chronograph Richemont show how serious they are about transforming Baume and Mercier from traditional laggard to star of the group”.

Cartier
Cartier’s been looking for the next big watch with mass- market appeal to succeed the Santos and the Pasha, and they figure they’ve got it in the Calibre de Cartier. First launched in SIHH 2010, it has quickly become a top seller for the brand. I’m a big fan of Cartier, but seriously, I’m not too sure about the Calibre – it looks like a confused child that can’t figure out whether it wants to be a sports watch or a dressy evening watch.

5 different fonts and counting

The open- date window style is normally a preserve of military or aviation watches and so is the railway track on the outer rim; both look out of place in this l’elegante dial. OK, let’s imagine that its a sports watch instead, so why is it sporting Roman numerals? On the same subject, do you even know how MANY different font styles there are on the dial of the Calibre? 1) Roman Numerals; 2) ‘digital numbers’ on the railway track; 3) Cartier; 4) Font for the open date windows and 5) Font on the seconds- hand subdial. Then there are the bar strips on the four to eight o’clock hour-markers. Keep looking, Cartier.

Anyway this year Cartier releases the all the variations of the Calibre with matching bracelets. Kinda like releasing an OS without fixing all the bugs first actually, but if you’re feeling complicated in real life just like on Facebook, this could be the watch for you.

I see right through you...

OK, I know I said we wouldn’t be covering any ludicrously expensive watches or novelties, but this one is too good to miss out. The Santos Dumont Carbon Skeleton is one wickedly- beautiful design: here Cartier essentially ADLC coated last year’s Santos Dumont Squelette and gave it an aura of bad- ass elegance. I have my reservations about manual- wind movements in this day and age, but it’s really perfect in this setting: you can see the mainspring being wound up clearly through the darkened ‘dial’ of the skeletonised case, something that perhaps would not have been so clear through the silvered dial of last year’s Squelette. According to our source, this one’s priced to go at around 28,000 Euros, which while far from being affordable, makes it the best watch for dramatic effect in that price range for me.

Fluff Statement: “Cartier, manufacturer of the first wristwatches and master of the realm of elegance, are unfortunately still some way off making a true sports watch”.

Jaeger LeCoultre (JLC)
The reporter was supposed to have attended this one, so we were very disappointed to discover that he overslept.

IWC (International Watch Company)

 

For SIHH 2011, IWC’s poured all their energy into the Portofino range to engineer a lineup that er, frankly resembles their Portuguese line rather closely. For 2011, the Portofino line thus sees the addition of an automatic wristwatch, a chronograph, and, erm, a Portofino ’8 Days’, which really confuses me. I can understand the uniform variations the Portuguese shares with IWC’s Pilot, Ingenieur, and even their Aquatimer lines, but those have a very different feel and style from the Portuguese; the Portofino looks like it had the same mother but different father. If you ask me its a sure way to cannabalise your own sales. But IWC’s marketing strategy has always been top- notch; I’m sure they’ll be sure to figure out a way to make sure that a real man like you will need them both.


First up is the Automatic 8 Days, a manual- winding clone of the Portuguese 7 days. All the familiar elements from the latter are here: the power reserve (in a graph this time, rather than a sub-dial), a seconds-hand subdial, and the date window that has been shifted to the three o’clock position. Beats me why they would bother with this. The chronograph though, stays true to the original, although the timing pushers now take on the style of the stopwatch-buttons seen in last year’s Portuguese Yacht Club. The new Portofino line does come with a cracker of a leather strap, which apparently was made for IWC by some bespoke shoemaker, or a mesh metal-bracelet that looked like it belonged to the Crusades.

Fluff Statement: “Its always a pity when bracelets or straps provide more of a talking point than the watches, but unfortunately, that’s exactly the situation with IWC this year.”

And er, that’s all we got unfortunately. Yes I know, there were a million other brands on display but our reporter inexplicably got the runs whenever anyone mentioned the phrase ‘high horology’. See you at Basel!

 

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