In the world of watches, unlike the fashion industry, ideas needn’t always take the form of new collections. Knowing that brands sweat blood and tears to put their stamp on immediately recognisable lines, it makes sense that they should then enjoy the benefit of their hard-won icons. This continuity was apparent at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, which just ended. With the exception of the two new collections launched there, namely Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet and Galop d’Hermès, and to a lesser extent the Heritage line from Montblanc, a reworking of 1940s and 1950s models from Minerva, its manufacturing arm, the new watches unveiled by the Salon’s historic Maisons belong to “categories” that have already proved their worth. What makes them fresh is their colour, the materials used, the chosen dimensions, or the type of complications.
Ringing the changes
Vacheron Constantin is a prime example, for the blue dials on its Fiftysix Self-Winding and Complete Calendar, alongside more blue dials on the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date and Self-Winding, all existing models. As far as line extensions go, the brand has introduced an extra-thin flying tourbillon to its Overseas collection, in steel, and a new Overseas Perpetual Calendar, also extra-thin. For a true demonstration of the brand’s expertise, there is the Traditionnelle Twin Beat, one of the fair’s most talked-about watches whose movement runs at a high or low frequency, five of which will be made, and the one-of-a-kind watches produced by its Les Cabinotiers department.
It’s a similar story at Jaeger-LeCoultre whose Master Ultra Thin with enamel dial and Rendez-Vous lines were the centre of attention. The former comes with new extra-thin complications, which include moon phases, a perpetual calendar and a tourbillon, all presented as limited editions. The latter makes changes to the gem settings on Dazzling Rendez-Vous watches and gives a new face to the moon phase display in the Classic line. Here too, a single exceptional watch becomes the focus for all the Manufacture’s skill, in the now famous Hybris Mechanica range. The watch in question is the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel, which assembles 1,050 components for a minute repeater striking on four gongs and a perpetual calendar regulated by a constant-force dual-axis tourbillon. An astounding achievement that was six years in development and has 12 patents pending.
It’s one thing to refresh a line, as Piaget is doing this year with its Altiplano, Possession and Polo, mainly with visual tweaks such as dials made from meteorite. And another to give a collection sufficient depth. This is precisely what Panerai has done, quite cleverly, by making its Submersible professional dive watch the brand’s fourth pillar, alongside the Radiomir, the Luminor and the Due. It’s also what Cartier is doing with the Panthère, back for a third year in mini versions or on cuff bracelets. Not forgetting the Santos which, after last year’s makeover, sets the ball rolling on a full-fledged collection that takes in a chronograph, a skeleton “noctambule”, coloured dials and the Santos-Dumont, a more classic style named after the pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont who inspired his friend, Louis Cartier, for the design in the early years of the twentieth century.
Similar variety can be found at IWC where pilot’s watches, a speciality of the brand since 1936, appear in the Spitfire, Top Gun and Le Petit Prince ranges. All three took the stage at SIHH in multiple versions fitted with in-house movements. Richard Mille carries on its strategy to appeal to women watch-buyers with the Bonbon collection, built around three of its totemic automatic models, the RM 07-03, RM 16-01 and RM 37-01. Dials covered with marshmallows, fruit, liquorice and lollipops in 60 bright colours, created with grand feu enamel, blackened titanium or acrylic lacquer, give new meaning to the phrase “wrist candy”. Last but not least is Montblanc’s 1858 collection, introduced last year and which also gains in substance with the addition of chronograph and automatic versions. Khaki green dials and bronze cases channel the vintage vibe that has taken the watch market by storm in recent years. Because as the SIHH Maisons have shown, there is much to be said for “making history”.