2011’s most stylish and advanced timepieces

  • MB&F Horological Machine No 4 Thunderbolt
  • Jean Dunand Palace
  • Audemars Piguet Millenary
  • Hamilton Time Player
  • Daniel Strom Memento Mori
  • Romain Jerome Steampunk
  • Omega Skeleton
  • MB&F Horological Machine Frog
  • Breitling Chronomat
  • Rebellion T-1000
Date:24 March 2011 Tags:, ,

Make a statement. Tell the time. Industrial chic meets subtle sensuality. Steampunk versus classic elegance. If last year’s watches leaned towards retro extravagance, lightweight materials (titanium and ceramic) and stratospheric price tags, this year’s offerings are marginally more subdued, yet reassuringly elegant. We share some of the best and most outrageous designs from the annual Baselworld show in Switzerland, and invite you to drool.

MB&F Horological Machine No 4 Thunderbolt
Yes, but is it art?

A traditional wristwatch has a relatively straightforward role: to tell the time. All you need is a hand for the hours, another for the minutes, and perhaps a power reserve indicator to keep track of running time. Horological Machine No 4 Thunderbolt has a hand for the hours, another for the minutes and a power reserve indicator. In other words, it tells the time.

The Thunderbolt’s “engine” is the culmination of three years of development, each of its 300-plus components – including the regulator and even the screws – being designed specifically for this watch. Horizontally configured dual mainspring barrels drive two vertical gear trains, transferring 72 hours’ worth of energy to the twin pods indicating hours/minutes and power reserve. Oil-pressure gauge? Don’t be silly.

Cool factor: ***

Rebellion T-1000
Ergonomically tactile pleasure?

With a power reserve of more than 1 000 hours – that’s more than 40 days – the T-1000 is not a demanding timepiece. The concept was born in 2008 after the famous Le Mans 24-hour race, in an atmosphere redolent with the smell of motor oil and hot engines. The Rebellion team’s thinking went as follows: “If we can transform these fine-tuned racing thoroughbreds into 24-hour long distance endurance racers, why not do the same with a watch?”

Er… yes. At this point we turn to the impassioned prose of the brand’s marketing team, who reveal the following: “There is a sensation of flying as the viewer gazes down through the massive opening to the vertical roller-borne time indications below. Attention then plunges towards 6 o’clock, where the inclined double balance releases the immense power at a precisely controlled rate. The oversized winding lever endows the T-1000 with a strong and virile identity as well as an ergonomically tactile pleasure while ‘fi lling the tank’.”

Cool factor: **

Breitling Chronomat
How much? If you have to ask…

Breitling’s flagship Chronomat 01 model is a limited series – just 2 000 in steel and 200 in rose gold – endowed with a transparent sapphire crystal case back that provides a view of the chronograph movement – and here we are talking seriously elegant innards. First introduced in 2009, this iconic model bears an individual number engraved at 9 o’clock. Not that anyone would ask.

Cool factor: *****

MB&F Horological Machine Frog
Ribbet. Ribbet

We’re told that one of designer Maximilian Büsser’s main goals in creating MB&F was to bring a child’s sense of awe and sense of playfulness into high-end watchmaking. This goes a long way towards explaining the existence of the unusual Frog, with its twin bulbous domes, which enable one to tell the time from many angles without having to turn the wrist – a physical challenge beyond most of us.

Rotating domes of this size and shape posed a number of technical challenges. For starters, even the slightest imperfection in the sapphire might introduce a disconcerting magnifi cation effect. They are milled from the outside and then the inside to arrive at a paper-thin wall thickness of just 0,28 mm, which reduces their energy requirements to an absolute minimum.

The Frog is available in titanium with blue rotor or a limited edition of 12 featuring black-coated titanium and a green rotor.

Cool factor: ***

Omega Skeleton
Classic with a twist

Its full name is Omega Skeleton Central Tourbillon Co-Axial Platinum Limited Edition, and we rather like it. How can we be sure this watch won’t be seen on the wrist of every Tom, Dick and Harry? Because Omega are making only 18 of them.

Your money buys a classic Tourbillon movement in which all of the main components responsible for the timepiece’s precision are assembled in a cage that rotates once every 60 seconds, offsetting the effect of gravity on the watch’s performance (hey, they said it).

Interestingly, the central Tourbillon’s hands cannot be mounted on a central shaft in the conventional way. Instead, they are attached to sapphire crystal discs and propelled by gearing at their peripheries of the discs, with the result that they appear to float freely above the movement.

Cool factor: ****

Romain Jerome Steampunk
Who needs a dial, anyway?

Galvanised by the Titanic DNA shockwave, Romain Jerome has launched a timekeeping statement expressed through polished steel claws, pistons, Roman numerals and a bezel in oxidised steel. (Damn! And we thought it was rust.)

Just so you know, its origins lie in an extraordinary fusion of “authentic” steel from the wrecked ocean liner and that supplied by the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, where the Titanic was built almost a century ago. A notarised certifi cate authenticates the origin of the materials. Please note that the watch doesn’t actually produce steam.

Cool factor: ****

Daniel Strom Memento Mori
Go on, express yourself

Daniel Strom’s Agonium collection, including this unusual model targeted at Amazonian headhunters, was apparently created with an idea of “life finitude”, which would seem to fit the skull theme rather well. They’ve named it Memento Mori, Carpe Diem (“remember your mortality”, “seize the day”), and it’s intended to make purchasers appreciate every moment of life.

The water-resistant watch case is crafted from silver, gold, palladium or platinum and comes with a double-curved sapphire crystal. The time is displayed in black or bone-white (sic), and the watch comes with an alligator-skin strap.

Cool factor: *

Hamilton Time Player
Know your place

Hamilton took inspiration for their Time Player from a design the company originally created for a clock in the Stanley Kubrick movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and brought it back to Earth. Our ancestors believed the planet’s surface was flat, and Hamilton playfully revisits this idea with a design that is resolutely contemporary and inspired by a society constantly on the move. The flat titanium case is split into nine squares, eight filled with movable counters and one left empty, much like a sliding puzzle. The counters, separated by lines symbolising latitude and longitude, enable the wearer to set and measure time in the current location, plus three others.

Cool factor: ***

Audemars Piguet Millenary
So money is no object, then?
The audible indication of the time, initially created to “tell” the time in the dark in an age when electricity had not yet been invented, is the oldest of all horological complications. Audemars Piguet’s new Millenary Minute Repeater model is in line with this tradition, featuring a striking mechanism and mini-gongs. A class act by any measure.

Cool factor: *****

Jean Dunand Palace
Look closely, now

Want to know what inspired this watch? It was the cultural and societal transformation of Western civilisation during the 50-year period from 1880 to 1930. (We know this because the people at Jean Dunand told us.) More specifically, it was London's celebrated Crystal Palace, built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, with a little aesthetic input from the architectural pinnacle of the era – the Eiffel Tower.

At the heart of the manually wound Palace beats a one-minute flying tourbillon. Above it are skeletal hour and minute hands, and a sapphire crystal 60-minute counter for the chronograph. On either side of the flying tourbillon are two vertical tracks, the one in the right-hand corner charting its 72-hour power reserve, the other a linear GMT indicator. Instead of a rotary dial, the Palace shows its second time zone through 12-hour indications on either side of the ovalshaped trace. Get this: so detail-rich is the design that each watch is supplied with a magnifying glass to enable the owner to study it!

Cool factor: ****