SIHH 2017 – Day Two
I can’t say that I was in any better condition Tuesday morning than I was Monday morning, but at this point I already had a lay of the land, so I had that going for me, right? Not quite.
After hopping into a cab and racing to the PalExpo thanks to an earlier accident which threw a wrench into the hotel shuttle service, we barely made it on time to our first appointment with arguably one of the most influential brands showcasing at SIHH: Audemars Piguet. This year, as with last year, the focus was firmly on the Royal Oak.
A valid argument can be made for the updated Royal Oak Chronograph being the most significant of their new releasees, but it seems like the press and show goers only had eyes for the black ceramic Royal Oak Offshore. If any watch can be said to do what it says on the tin, it's this one. It’s unmistakably a Royal Oak, with the trademark octagonal bezel and exposed screws; it’s crafted almost entirely out of inky, black ceramic; and finally, the four subdials enable the wearer to read the day of the week, date, moon phase and determine whether or not it’s a leap year. Boom.
It’s hard to argue with the pro ceramic perpetual crowd, but truth be told, we found the most fascinating of the lot to be the Frosted Gold Royal Oaks, with their shimmering cases. The “frosted” effect is the product of a metal hammering technique which creates a stippling effect that positively shimmers in the light. Now, technically, this isn’t an SIHH release, as the pieces were first announced back in November, but we don't care. It's gorgeous and we wants it, we does. At present, this finish is only available on the 33mm and 37mm Royal Oaks, but a little birdie may or may not have told us that a larger sized version aimed squarely at men might be on the way…
Also notable were the new Royal Oak Offshore Divers with bright orange, green, yellow and blue dials, which were clearly inspired by last year’s Royal Oak Offshore. Honestly, these watches shouldn’t work, but they do. Are they for everyone? Hardly, but if you get it, you get it. (We get it.)
Our second stop of the day was at Girard-Perregaux, which is making it's SIHH debut this year. G-P can be a tough brand to pin down – easy to like, but hard to love, they've never quite achieved the reputation that I feel they deserve. Over the years we've seen them struggle to find their stride with a string of good watches that never quite made it to great.
Their focus for 2017 was on the revamped Laureato, which was re-introduced as a limited edition last year, but now becomes part of G-P's series production. The new Laureato is available in three sizes – 34mm, 38mm and 42mm – and can be had in titanium, steel, gold and two-tone gold and titanium. Common across the range is the trademark octagonal bezel and textured Clous de Paris dial. My take? They're great and I love them. Each model comes with a manufacture movement, including the 34mm, which hides a manufacture quartz movement under its lovely dial (don't scoff; G-P practically wrote the book on the modern quartz movement).
Not content to leave well enough alone, and perhaps feeling their oats a bit after seeing how well the standard line was coming along, G-P went ahead and created the Laureato Tourbillon, a 45mm statement piece that eschews the GP01800 automatic movement of the 42mm Laureato and goes hog wild with a single-bridge one-minute tourbillon. As with the other Laureatos, its available in a variety of metals, ranging from titanium to white gold.
After making a small detour to chat with Michael Friedman, Audemars’ in-house historian and a absolutely amazing guy, we hoofed it on over to Panerai to check out their new collection, which we discovered was celebrating recently being named as the official timer of the America’s Cup. Panerai being Panerai, there were no less than five different models to choose from. With the exception of the Regatta Flyback Chronographs, you’d be hard pressed to tell any of them apart.
Not so with the innovative LAB-ID, which sports a Carbotech carbon fiber case and a rather innovative movement in which they reduced friction enough for Panerai to guarantee it free of maintenance for 50 years. Well, okay then. The dial uses nano tube technology to create an exceptionally deep black color, which increases the contrast of the blue arabics and indexes. In a novel twist, the brand and the “LAB-ID” are printed underneath the crystal as they can’t be applied directly to the dial. Sound like your cup of tea? If so, too bad, as they’re pretty much all sold.
Roger Dubuis’ big news this year used to do hot laps at over 200mph. Thats right, they’re making watches that feature straps made from from the Pirelli tires that won Formula One races. If this sounds like a gimmick, that’s because it is. Yet while we may have trouble seeing the appeal of wearing a tire on our wrist, we don’t have any trouble seeing where the Excalibur series, upon which the Spider Pirelli – Automatic Skeleton and Double Tourbillon are built, fit in terms of Roger Dubuis' corporate identity.
The Excalibur series has come to be the standard bearer for the brand, and its trademark skeltonized movement is instantly recognizable to collectors as being a Dubuis. The new Excalibur – Spider Carbon, capitalizes on this architecture too, but does so in a rather novel fashion. Its movement, which is otherwise identical to other Excaliburs in its range, has been rendered almost entirely in carbon fiber. The advantage? Believe it or not, but thanks to its lower mass, it boasts nearly double the power reserve of the traditionally crafted movements.
Okay, so maybe there is a method to their madness after all...
This man continually amazes me with his humble, easygoing nature, which belies the laser-like focus and precision that he brings to bear on his eponymous timepieces. This is Peter’s first year at SIHH, previously having exhibited at Baselworld, but even this wasn’t cause for undue concern on his part. Rather, he sat in his booth and made it clear that he was available to talk, which he did with us for an extremely relaxing and unhurried half and hour or so, while we occasionally photographed one of his watches.
The Piccadilly case, which has been his calling card from day he hung his shingle out, remans a polarizing piece thanks to its bold lugs and flattened diamond crown. So be it. You either get it, or you don’t, and should the latter be the case, I doubt that it would keep Peter up at night. If anything, the only reason I can think of for him lying awake in the wee hours of the night would be to come up with another unique masterpiece like his Crazy Skulls minute repeater. Yes, in Peter’s world a proper minute repeater rocks two skulls on the case, which slide out of the way when the repeater is activated in order to reveal the tourbillon escapement beneath.
We make no bones about our love for Laurent Ferrier the man, or Laurent Ferrier the watches. This love also extends to the people around him, like his right hand, Vanessa, and Vincent. This year the news centered around a piece unique Galet, with a visible tourbillon at 6 o’clock. While a tourbillon from an independent watchmaker of Laurent’s stature is hardly groundbreaking, given his reticence to do so in the past makes this noteworthy (he’s always felt that the tourbillon should remain hidden from the dial).
Also on hand was the new Galet Microrotor “Montre Ecole”, which was inspired by his first watch and the pocket watches upon which so many other watchmaker’s first watches were based upon. This piece is available in both gold and steel, and the exhibits flourishes from Laurent’s original.
Cartier is one of the 800lb gorillas of SIHH, so when they call a general press conference, you go. Mind you, when the object of said press conference is the anniversary of their iconic Panthere line of women’s watches, you hustle your buns on down the length of the salon and squeeze ‘em into a seat for a short film and then some serious hands on time with not only the ridiculously beautiful “haute joaillerie” pieces, but also such knock outs as the Mystery Skeleton and the new extra thin white gold Drive hand-cranker. The latter of the two is insanely good, but, alas, it’s a limited edition so only 200 will be made. I want one.
The big news over at Piaget is the 60th anniversary of their anorexic Altiplano. To celebrate, they created a couple of special editions with deep, blue cases — one at 38mm and the other at a whopping 43mm. True, there are plenty of watches that clock in a 43 or larger, but given that the Altiplano is, and has always been a slim dress watch, this is freakin’ huge. Accounting for part of this mass is the in-house caliber 1200P microrotor movement, which fills the case rather nicely (the 38mm version uses their smaller 430P manual-wind movement). There’s no denying that it’s a beautiful sight to behold through the sapphire display back, but if my money were on the line, there’s little question that I’d opt for the 38mm (alas, it only comes with a solid caseback — Piaget giveth and Piaget taketh away).
Perhaps the biggest surprise — at least for me, and definitely for my partner in crime, James Lamdin of Analog/Shift fame — was the updated Polo S with an ADLC bezel. Neither of us have made any secret of our dislike for the reborn Polo S, which burst on the scene this past summer with much fanfare (and an incredibly hot and sweaty coming out party in Brooklyn), yet this one small change is enough to take the watch from merely passable to objectively desirable. He’d go for the three-hander; I’d take the chrono. Either way, you wind up with one helluva good-looking watch that no longer seems as though it’s trying too hard to hang out with the cool kids, Royal Oak and Nautilus, behind the bleachers smoking cigarettes.
Piaget was our last stop of the day, so after grabbing a quick glass of wine (yes, there’s free wine and champagne at SIHH), we hit the now-functioning shuttle busses for a ride back into Geneva and a chance to rest up a bit before Wednesday kicks us square in the face.
See you tomorrow.
(Photos courtesy of Atom Moore)