Every January, watch dealers, collectors, and journalists assemble for the annual Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva to review the latest models from dozens of luxury brands for the upcoming year.
Continuing its push to expand in recent years, the show’s 29th edition featured 35 different brands—ranging from global powerhouses such as Cartier to small avant-garde independents, such as MB&F and Urwerk.
From a trend perspective, the watch market tends to move slowly and gradually. This year saw the continuation of steel sport watch dominance, with a number of divers, pilots, and traveler models, many exuding classic retro style.
Blue dials remain stronger than ever, with an updated twist of gradated coloration that goes dark around the periphery. A few brands ventured into green dials, particularly paired with bronze cases with vintage flair. And a handful of brands ventured into novel technical materials, such as Panerai’s BMG-Tech (Bulk Metallic Glass), IWC’s Ceratanium (ceramic and titanium alloy), and Girard-Perregaux’s Carbon Glass.
As for complications, this year’s event offered up an abundance of moon phases, perpetual calendars, and travel time functions. And it wouldn’t be SIHH without a few jaw-dropping technical pieces in the mix with astronomical price tags. While there were many noteworthy watches this year, as always, the following stood out for advancing the state of the art.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar
Established in 1755, Vacheron Constantin is organically steeped in a rich history, technical mastery, and artistry. But in today’s market, no brand can afford to rest on its pedigreed laurels. In recent years, rather than stick to the tried and true, the Geneva veteran has been flexing some considerable technical muscle that few young guns can match.
This year, in addition to endowing its steel sporty Overseas with an exquisite tourbillon, Vacheron unveiled the groundbreaking Traditionelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar (US$199,000) with an unheard of 65-day power reserve.
To achieve this record, Vacheron’s watchmakers devised a movement with two regulating systems operating at different frequencies that you can switch between at will. When you’re wearing the watch, chose the 5Hz (36,000 vibrations per hour) active mode and the calendar will keep time for four days. But when it’s time to rest, switch to a low-energy-consumption mode of 1.2Hz (10,800 vph) that extends the running time to an incredible 65 days. That’s welcome news for perpetual owners, who often dread the notion of having to reset these complex watches once they have run down.
Hermès Arceau L’Heure de la Lune
For its captivating Arceau L’Heure de la Lune (US$25,500), Hermès tapped movement specialist Jean-Francois Mojon of Chronode to put a new spin on the age-old moon phase. The stunning piece simultaneously depicts the moon in both the southern and northern hemispheres at noon and 6 o’clock, respectively. This topsy-turvy perspective is intended to invite you to “lose your head in the stars,” per Hermès.
While the moons remain fixed, two satellite dials displaying the time and date advance around the dial, maintaining their horizontal positions, in small increments each day, completing a full rotation around the dial in 59 days. Like an eclipse, the revolving sub-dials cover and uncover each moon to indicate their phases with exceptional accuracy, deviating by only one day after 32 years of continuous running time. Mojon’s patent-pending rotating module operates in conjunction with the automatic Manufacture Hermès H1837 movement.
Aside from the technical intrigue, the watch’s aesthetic visually romances the lunar orb, which is beautifully rendered in radiant mother-of-pearl and set against a dial of sparkly aventurine glass or shimmery meteorite, each limited to 100 pieces in a white gold case. As a final flourish, the artist Dimitri Rybaltchenko subtly portrays the brand’s spirit animal, Pegasus, in the moon at 12 o’clock.
Panerai Submersible Mike Horn Edition – 47MM (PAM00984)
Panerai kept its focus on its Submersible dive watch range this year with a few intriguing models that introduce the concept of pairing a watch with an experience, such as a chance to dive with the pros. This notion takes a watch purchase far beyond the acquisition to something that enriches your life beyond mere ownership.
In honor of its longtime ambassador, the South African adventurer and explorer Mike Horn, who has ventured to the planet’s most extreme environments, Panerai introduced the Submersible Mike Horn Edition – 47MM (PAM00984).
In keeping with Horn’s commitment to environmental preservation, the latest watch bearing his name uses recycled titanium from the aerospace industry for its case, crown protector, and bezel, which for the first time features markings in raised relief against the sandblasted metal. Panerai dubbed the recycled material EcoTitanium and paired it with a fabric strap made of recycled PET.
While the standard PAM00984 version (US$20,500) illuminates with green Super-LumiNova, an almost identical PAM00985 special edition limited to 19 pieces (US$41,000) lights up in blue and comes with what promises to be a life-changing Arctic adventure guided by Horn.
Ressence Type 2
Last year, the avant-garde Belgian independent previewed its concept for a watch that merges mechanical and electronic technologies for the height of performance and convenience. This year, the Type 2 (US$48,800) hits the market.
Type 2 required three years of development with the assistance of technical coach Tony Fadell of iPod fame. While the brand’s signature orbiting disc time displays are preserved, the watch’s performance has been enhanced by e-Crown technology, which interfaces with and boosts the mechanical movement like a pacemaker keeping a heart optimally beating.
A double tap on the crystal activates the e-Crown system and single taps allow you to change modes: off, time zone one, time zone two, and Bluetooth. The system can automatically sync your watch to the exact time using an app that lets you set additional time zones and check power levels.
The e-Crown registers the time you set manually with the lever on the case back, and uses that as the reference time for future monitoring, auto-setting, and adjusting. The system can monitor the time display at least once a day and make any necessary adjustments, to ensure your mechanical watch is keeping time as precisely as your smartphone.
When you take your watch off, the system goes into an energy-saving sleep mode, which can stay powered down for as long as three months. Once you pick up the watch, it restarts the mechanical movement and automatically adjust the time with two taps.
Separate from the mechanical movement, the electronic system is powered by tiny photovoltaic sensors that draw energy from light exposure to produce the required 1.8 joules of energy per day.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetuel
Sometimes, innovation comes incrementally, as Jaeger-Lecoultre has demonstrated with its fifth multi-axis tourbillon, the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel (€800,000).
Building on the maison’s 186 years of watchmaking expertise and recent technical advances, this new grand complication packs considerable horological firepower into a remarkably wearable 43-mm white gold case.
For this next-gen Gyrotourbillon, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s watchmakers managed to significantly reduce the size of the multi-axis tourbillon without impacting precision in a feat of miniaturization.
By incorporating a one-minute constant-force mechanism into the movement, it can deliver a steady flow of energy to the power-hungry tourbillon, while also regulating the minute wheel (resulting in a highly precise jumping minute hand), as well as the minute strike of the minute repeater.
On that note, Jaeger-LeCoultre took the already daunting minute repeater complication to its apex with a Westminster chime that plays the tune of London’s Big Ben. This complex melody with four notes played in different sequences and quantities at each quarter hour requires four sets of resonant crystal gongs and hammers. The sound quality of the song, which can have gaps of silences between quarter hour and minute strikes, has been improved by a silence-reduction function that allows the tune to play seamlessly between hours, quarters, and minutes.
The perpetual calendar function, which automatically adjusts for months of varying lengths including during leap years, can conveniently be set both forward and backward without damaging the movement.
All of these technical achievements have been combined in a tour de force timepiece, limited to 18 units, that pairs the traditional métiers d’arts of hand guillochage, fine hammering (martelage), and grand feu enamel with a contemporary open-worked dial that keeps all eyes on the mesmerizing multi-axis tourbillon.