We come to the final episode of our armchair picks from this year’s watch fairs with our Chief Editor rounding up the Armchair Picks instead of his usual, live reporting as he chose not to attend the fairs this year, for various reasons. Anyway, here are his top 3 picks from the shows.
Armchair Picks: Peter’s 3 of the best from W&W 2022
First off, I make no apologies for 2 of my top 3 picks are megabuck watches. In fact, the two watches each tips the SGD 500k mark on the scale, makes this a roundup of the best high end watches. And without further ado, let’s begin…no particular order.
Retail price is CHF 380,000.
This highly technical release was launched right after the closing of the Watches & Wonders 2022 show in Palexpo, Geneva. Patek chose not to release this during the show, a smart move, as this news of this very special watch may be lost in the plethora of novelty releases during the week. We carried the news as a Breaking News release (link above), where we explained the depth of this release, and why it is is a significant horological achievement.
On the surface, a 1/10th second chronograph is not a huge technical challenge. But things are always more complicated than they seem on the surface. Patek started with the Caliber CHR 29-535 PS as the base movement. This a split seconds chronograph. Step 1 was to strip the split seconds chronograph module. Second step is to replace the escapement system with one which clocks in at 5Hz, in place of the standard 4Hz movement. The escapement now makes one half oscillation per 1/10s, allowing the energy to escape in 1/10th second steps. They could have stopped there, and would have ended up with a movement in the same technical vein as a Zenith El Primero, though it could argued that a Patek movement is as similar to a Zenith as a Ferrari is similar to a Fiat. In any case, Patek was able to increase the movement frequency because of earlier research they done, in particular, was able to utilise the Oscillomax regulating organ escapement made of Silinvar.
But Patek did not stop there. They wanted a chronograph where the 1/10th of the second readout is easy to read, and intuitive to use. Not one where the 1/10th markings are cramped into the small space provided by the traditional seconds ring around the dial, splitting the one second marker into 9 divisions to allow a readout for a 1/10th second resolution. They decided to mount a 1/10th second module over the base movement, in the place of the removed split seconds mechanism. This assembly allows the chronograph seconds hand to move 5 times faster than the regular sweep seconds hand, and enables the divisions of 1/10th of a second to be easily read.
However, the complexity of adding this mechanism is very high, and requires 7 additional patents to be developed, from a super light seconds hand made of Silvinar, a special method to enable the Silvinar to take on paint, and for it to be welded securely to the metal arbour. The other patents are needed to ensure that the chronograph column wheel is secure against shock with a specially designed hook system under the column wheel cap, a new dual pendulum shock absorber system to ensure that the teeth of the chronograph driving wheel is always in contact with the pinion of the chronograph hand, a special anti-backlash system which acts as a clutch to ensure that the 1/10th second hand does not jump or reverses during the activation. So many challenges that the team needed to be solved, that the development of the Caliber CHR 29-535 PS 1/10 that it took 12 whole years to bring this watch to market. Work began in 2010, and took them till now to be ready to present a watch which deserves to wear the Patek Philippe Calatrava batch.
We will cover the technical details in a later article.
Retail price of the Chopard Full Strike Tourbillon is SGD 556,000.
We have always been fascinated by the Chopard Full Strike – their first Minute Repeater. The special features like the crystal gong. This gong is special not only because it is made of sapphire crystal, but in the manner in which it is attached to the watch. In a traditional minute repeater, the gong’s attachment block is bolted to the movement, but in the Full Strike, the gongs and the sapphire crystal start out as one piece of sapphire glass and machined into shape. Read our full hands-on detailed review of the Full Strike for more information. As a result of this amazing work, the Full Strike sounds are particularly sweet, clean, clear and harmonious. In addition, Chopard has enrolled the ears of musicians Renaud and Gautier Capuçon. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele had invited the two prodigious violinist brothers to participate in elaborating the new series of chiming watches.
The Full Strike Tourbillon, where a tourbillon escapement is added to the base minute repeater, creating a grand complication of sorts. However, it is much more complicated than just an escapement change, as the adding of the tourbillon necessitates a reworking and rearrangement of many of the components on the base minute repeater. The result is a movement with 568 parts, an addition of more than 35 to the original.
I could also have as easily chosen the Full Strike Sapphire, where the innovation is in a full sapphire case, but I feel the significance of rearranging the movement to accommodate the tourbillon is more interesting, and horologically significant.
Retail price for the Czapek Antarctique Rattrapante Openworked Ice Blue is CHF 50,000 before taxes, Limited Edition of 99 pieces. This is the least expensive watch on this list by a factor of 10!
Another maison which I have tremendous respect for. My admiration extend from the founder and CEO, Xavier de Roquemaurel’s enthusiasm and honesty, but also in the brilliance of the watches, to the honest pricing. And at CHF 50k for a split seconds chronograph with openworked dial, I think this is excellent value, especially for a small production independent watchmaker.
The Antarctique Rattrapante Openworked Ice Blue is not a new watch. It was first released in a different colourway in 2021, and I think this new Ice Blue accent makes the watch all the more attractive compared to the first edition’s grey accents. The pricing has increased by a modest CHF 4k.
What makes this rattrapante special, in case a split seconds is not special enough, is that the dial is not only highly skeletonized, but movement is flipped to show the split seconds mechanism below the dial. From the dial, we can see what remains are chapter rings carrying the counter sub-dials as well as the periphery main seconds chapter ring. The entire movement is visible through the dial. The movement itself is rather interesting. The split seconds module is developed by Chronode and placed dial side of the caliber SHX5 used in the earlier Antarctiques making it SHX6.
Overall, the watch looks wonderful, including the case, and superb bracelet, and this is very much a watch I would have liked to own.
Distilling a list to just 10 watches is a daunting task. This is the assignment I have given to the other writers, and you have seen their thoughts. And I abide by the same assignment, and this is my list.
Other watches in consideration are the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222, which appeared in Robin’s list, but one which I must say pulls at my heart strings rather strongly, the SGD 90k retail price notwithstanding. This is a faithful reproduction of the original 222 designed by Jorg Hysek, and one with updated internals.
One other piece which fascinated me was the Grand Seiko Kodo Constant Force Tourbillon. It also appears in Robin’s list. This is a super limited edition of only 20 pieces and is the first manifestation of the Constant T0 Force Tourbillon movement that Seiko announced last year. But the pricing of about EUR 350k is a huge sticker shock, especially when the same company’s Credor Minute Repeater is also priced similarly. However, this is one watch which needs a closer examination.
One other piece, I would have liked to pick is Sylvian Pinaud’s Origine, but I am still waiting for further information and photographs of this piece. Long time readers would have read my admiration of Sylvian’s work which I reviewed enthusiastically in 2019.