The first and arguably most important watch fair of the year is over but the dust has barely settled. This was not only my maiden trip to SIHH but also to Switzerland and as you can imagine, it was an exciting experience for me. As per Deployant tradition, I am here to present to you my top 5 picks from SIHH 2017. The watches were selected for various reasons but mainly for their excellence in one or more key aspects. Some of these watches may come as surprising to you (heck, even I am surprised at one or two of my own picks) while the rest are obvious picks.
Well, here goes nothing!
H. Moser & Cie. Venturer Swiss Mad
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard about the absolutely outrageous, million-dollar cheese watch by Moser. This was a dig at the lax rules governing what being “Swiss Made” means. The watch I have selected however is, well, a lot less cheesy: the Venturer Swiss Mad.
This pick was the most surprising for me as Moser watches had never appealed to me; they had always been too plain and minimalistic for my taste. With the Venturer Swiss Mad, I am well and duly smitten. The red fumé dial is extremely captivating and also very dynamic as it dances with the light. The markers and feuille hands are as white as snow from the Alps and contrasts stunningly against the dial – and yes, the markers and the red dial combine to intentionally resemble the Swiss flag. My favourite part of the watch though is the cowhide strap – boy is it furry! Naturally, you won’t find any alligators in the river Rhine so the use of locally-sourced cowhide is perfect.
The Venturer Swiss Mad is limited to 50 pieces and is priced at CHF19,500; it is not a small sum of money but given the high labour costs in Switzerland, I would say it is priced fairly.
Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu
The new Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu is a handsome classical timepiece in which the manufacturer unites technical avant-garde and rare artistry.
A large, imposing flying tourbillon dances away at 6 o’clock while at 12 o’clock, a power reserve indicator ensures that the watch stays topped up. The dial, which I’d argue is the highlight of the entire watch, is made of grand feu enamel. The rich, milky white appearance of the enamel dial adds purity and a bit of decadence to the watch. The movement powering the watch is the in-house manufactured, COSC-certified calibre UN-128. It also features Ulysse Nardin’s silicium spring and escapement.
The watch is priced at CHF100,000.
Just kidding! The real price is exactly CHF28,000. Yup, CHF28,000! And that is the reason why this new Ulysse Nardin timepiece has made it onto the list. At CHF28,000, a watch with a grand feu enamel dial, a flying tourbillon, a power reserve indicator, an in-house movement and the manufacturer’s silicium technology is a steal by today’s obscene watch pricing standards.
A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Annual Calendar
It isn’t ground-breaking, nor is it a grand complication, but the 1815 Annual Calendar still manages to tick many boxes. I have always found the 1815 family of watches to be most charming because they evoke the nostalgia of old Lange pocket watches. The 1815 Annual Calendar is no different, with its inky Arabic numerals in Lange’s modified Engraver’s font and the railroad minutes track. The lancet hours/minutes hands in blued steel look stunning on the dial and have an electric glow under incident light. If the Lange 1 is all about asymmetrical balance, then the 1815 takes pride in old-school dial symmetry; the sunken sub-dials at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock for the annual calendar and moon phase indications and subsidiary seconds are perfect in size and positioning.
Together, all these elements combine to make an exceedingly charming watch. But the story doesn’t just end there. Flip the watch over and you are treated with a spectacularly finished movement as per usual. The best part is that it is manually wound: just how I like my Lange watches. At the price of €37,500, the 1815 Annual Calendar is relatively accessible, and with a practical complication and timeless design, you can be sure it will find homes on wrists very quickly.
A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour Le Merite”
I am a complications person – it is what turns me on the most about watches. So, imagine the look on my face when I saw the ginormous Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour Le Merite” at the Lange booth at SIHH first thing on Monday morning. I was giddy with glee.
What I would really like to highlight is the sensuously curved tourbillon bridge, necessary because of the additional perpetual calendar works set just under the dial, adjacent to what was essentially the original Tourbograph movement. Not only is this curved bridge more difficult to fabricate, it is also much, much harder to finish. But I have to say, they’ve done a splendid job with it; the bridge gives a satisfying sense of depth to the movement and an inkling of how complex it is.
The watchmakers at Lange will be relieved that only 50 will ever be made, as assembling these watches will be a nightmare. At the price of €480,000, this is not a watch that many will be able to afford (to put bluntly) but given the monumental complexity of the timepiece, the price is perhaps justifiable.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon
The Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon is, in my opinion, a near-perfect timepiece simply because its design is elegant and its complications are executed to the highest order of excellence. Much of Vacheron Constantin’s watchmaking expertise is poured into the making of this Traditionelle. The dial is delicately engine-turned with a mesmerising motif while the off-centred design of the minutes track, dauphine hands and hour markers gives the watch a fresh, contemporary visage. The brand’s Maltese Cross tourbillon is a spectacular sight. Not only is it tedious to craft, it is also a pain to finish due to the numerous internal angles. Equally deserving of praise is the work done on the tourbillon bridge, as it is perfectly rounded and black-polished.
Finishing and decoration isn’t all Vacheron Constantin is good at; the brand has been building minute repeaters for over a century and today makes some of the best in the world. Words cannot fully describe how beautiful the chimes of the Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon are. They are warm and crystal clear, with angelic resonance. Listen to the chimes in the video below and you will understand!
The watch offers not only visual splendour but also aural pleasure, a feast for the senses. Take it from me, even after so many days, I still can’t stop thinking about it. The only downside of the watch is its steep pricing: an eye-watering USD490,900 for pink gold and USD546,600 for platinum.