Not surprisingly, the financial crisis that rocked the world’s economy has resulted in a refocusing of consumer demand on unpretentious, classic watches that can be worn on all occasions. Women’s watches, for example, are distinctly smaller than in the past, displaying a refined, ultra-feminine elegance, while men’s timepieces, following several years of ever-increasing dimensions, appear to have stabilised around 42 to 44 mm in diameter, with relatively fl at cases.
Rather than present a plethora of complications, watch companies have concentrated on practicality, legibility and comfort (the exceptions to this trend, as we show on these pages, are spectacular!). We see this in the use of titanium, which is very light and highly resistant to corrosion and which has become a common watchmaking material – as has ceramic, previously reserved for rather exclusive models. As far as displays are concerned, disc systems feature some very original configurations, but digital functions have returned to centre stage, coupled with mechanical or quartz movements.
Although designs have been refined, innovation is more evident than ever. This is apparent in the considerable attention paid to the materials and finishing – especially PVD and galvanic processes – on this year’s models. Sapphire crystals have found new applications as dials and case middles, while composite (high-tech) materials appear in original alloys. This year, prestige complications such as repeaters, tourbillons and calendars – annual or perpetual – are most likely to be found in upmarket models, more often than not in 18-carat white or pink gold cases, confirming the trend of the past few years.
There can be only one
Louis Moinet (1768–1853) is considered by many to be one of the most talented watchmakers of all time. His clients included some of the wealthiest and most influential people of his day, including Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon, James Monroe and King George IV. Today, his name lives on through exquisite designs such as the Magistralis – the only watch in the world to incorporate pieces of the Moon in its moon-phase display. To ensure that it retains its über-exclusivity, it comes in a limited edition – of just one watch!
Aside from its outrageous exclusivity and huge price (how does R6,5 million grab you?), there are a number of features that make this watch rather special. Consider, for example, that of all meteorites, the lunar variety is the rarest, making it considerably more valuable than gold or platinum. The ancient lunar meteorite used to adorn the moon-phase display on the Magistralis originated from a location on the Moon that was never visited by the Apollo missions.
Amazingly, the watch’s sophisticated complication movement is 100 years old, and still in pristine condition. It beats at 18 000 vibrations an hour, and features a double bladed self-compensating balance as well as a fl ame-blued Breguet balance spring – all housed in a modern case of 18-carat white gold. The perpetual calendar displays the day, date and month over four years, and is unique in its small size for its era. The striking mechanism, comprising two hammers that sound the hours, quarter-hours and minutes, is made by hand – because that’s the only way it can be done.
Because the Magistralis was created more to be admired than worn, it comes with a hand-crafted presentation box and watch support designed by renowned guitar maker Claude Bourquard. Fashioned from curly maple and varnished spruce, the watch support is effectively a musical instrument, amplifying the sound of the watch’s repeater mechanism so that its tone can be properly appreciated. The package includes an original second-edition copy of Louis Moinet’s famous Traité d’ Horlogerie (Treatise on Watchmaking) dated 1856, regarded as one of the world’s most comprehensive books on the subject.
? Source: Swisstime
Actually, it’s a bit complicated
It’s claimed to be the world’s most complex wristwatch, featuring 36 complications (25 of them visible), 1 483 components, a 1 000-year calendar, an astonishing degree of accuracy – and a price tag of R20,7 million.
Meet Aeternitas Mega 4, the culmination of fi ve years’ work by designer Franck Muller and the Master Watchmakers of Genthod. Their challenge was enormous: how to embed all known complications in a watch that was designed to be worn. The Aeternitas movement served as a base, while the Mega 4 – with its grand and small Westminster chime striking-work – represents the apotheosis of the art of watchmaking.
Interestingly, this isn’t a once-off creation: the first offering in the (understandably limited) series was presented to an American collector at a ceremony in Monaco last November. The Master Watchmakers of Genthod are already putting the fi nishing touches to a second Aeternitas Mega 4, which will be available in the near future.
Power of the turbine
Watchmakers Perrelet, who claim to have specialised in “the creation of energy through movement” since 1777, were so impressed by the gas turbine and its role in the aviation industry that they decided to design and name a new range after it – hence the Turbine, featuring a 12-bladed titanium rotor slotted neatly into a concave case. The Turbine collection is available in plain titanium, DLCtreated titanium or 18-carat pink gold.
Masculine, monochrome, high-tech
Metrosexuals, don’t apply. If you like your watches unfussy, technologically advanced and unabashedly masculine, the “athletic” case of the Pontos Chronographe Rectangulaire Full Black should appeal to you. Relentlessly dark and more than a little sexy, this chronograph’s only concession is apparent in the white Superluminova dots on the tone-on-tone architecture of its layers.
Code of the samurai
How’s this for one-upmanship: the Black Belt Watch, developed and manufactured in Switzerland, is reserved solely for the holders of black belts, regardless of their martial arts style. To buy one, a practitioner would have to provide an official rank certificate.
According to the people behind the concept, the watch honours the courage of black belt holders across the world who embody the samurai warrior code through the initiation and practice of an ancient martial art. Here’s the part we like: Black Belt Watch supports the Little Dreams Foundation and donates a percentage of its sales to the “No Difference” cause, a programme that grants young handicapped people a chance to realise their passion for a martial art.
Wet and wild
Timing blends seamlessly with the world of diving in the new Victorinox Dive Master 500, a highly original chronograph with a central minutes and seconds display. Water-resistant to 500 m, with luminescent hands, it’s both robust and functional. Available in black, red or orange.
Heavenly bodies rule
Seventeen years after the completion of its astronomical “Trilogy of Time” watch, Ulysse Nardin has developed another revolutionary timepiece that focuses on the system of Sun, Earth and Moon, and the global infl uence of lunar and solar gravity. It’s called the Moonstruck. By combining the movement of two rotating discs in one display, the Moon phase indication is so precise that more than 100 000 years will have to pass before it shows a full Moon rather than a new Moon (or vice versa). The Moonstruck simulates the rotation of the Moon around the Earth, as well as the apparent movement of the Sun around the globe. The latter is shown by another disc that rotates once every 24 hours. This permits the determination of the current moon phase in relation to any location in the world.
The Moonstruck also shows the global dynamics of tides that depend upon the gravitational effects of Moon and Sun. This revolutionary mechanical wristwatch illustrates the current tidal status and trend in relation to specifi c coastlines or oceans. The cumulative infl uences of the Moon and Sun which result in spring tides are also clearly shown. The watch is available in a limited edition of 500 pieces in 18-carat red gold and 500 pieces in platinum.
Shattering existing limits – that’s the motto of the CX Swiss Military Watch brand, which recently unveiled its record-breaking “20 000 Feet” watch, reportedly the only mechanical timepiece able to plunge more than 6 000 m beneath the sea and emerge unscathed. Featured in the Guinness Book of Records, the “20 000 Feet” is a seriously tough timepiece: it not only withstands the 750 kg/cm² pressure at deep-sea levels, but even survives a dynamite blast and a pounding by rifle bullets. Later this year, the company will subject the watch to yet another test: a parachutist will drop it from a height of 1 500 metres. And they’re going even further, inviting the public to come up with their own “real life” tests, offering one of the watches as a prize.
TAG Heuer’s ‘audacious’ step
To mark its 150th anniversary, TAG Heuer has taken a revolutionary concept through to commercial reality with the introduction of the Monaco V4 – probably its boldest innovation since the 1/100th-of-asecond mechanical chronograph. The company sees its belt-driven watch as a complete break with tradition and an “audacious next step” in mechanical movement engineering. First unveiled as a concept watch at BaselWorld in 2004, the platinum-cased Monaco V4 is hand-built in TAG Heuer’s La Chaux-de-Fonds workshop in a limited edition of 150 pieces.
Of Bauhaus and restraint
It takes a lot to surprise followers of MB&F, but the latest version of Horological Machine No 2, with a case created by French watch designer Alain Silberstein, may well do it. Silberstein is widely known for his bold use of colour and pattern – and one might have expected the adventurous Maximilian Büsser to push that tendency to the limit. Instead, the two have come up with what they call the “black box” – all Bauhaus purity and restraint. Although it’s crafted like a jewel, Silberstein says it reminds him of the miniature box cameras of the 1940s.
MB&F (Maximilian Büsser and Friends) is a company dedicated solely to designing and crafting small series of radical concept watches in collaboration with talented professionals. The Büsser/Silberstein model is based on orological Machine No 2, introduced in 2008. Entertainingly complex, it featured the world’s first mechanical movement that combined an instantaneous jumping hour, concentric retrograde minutes, retrograde date, bi-hemisphere Moon phase and automatic winding. Their new creation will be available in a limited edition of eight watches.