HANDS-ON: The Baume & Mercier Clifton Perpetual Calendar raises the bar

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Baume & Mercier are known for their value-focused take on traditional watchmaking. Their Clifton and Capeland collections epitomise this approach, offering versatile style at a price that won’t break the bank. Of course, this means some concessions must be made: Cases are usually steel, and complications are of the more down-to-earth variety. But just because this sort of everyday mechanical is Baume & Mercier’s bread and butter doesn’t mean that they don’t have the capacity to hit the horological high gear on occasion.

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Clifton 8-Days. Image: Kristian Dowling/Time+Tide Images.

In fact, over the past few years Baume & Mercier has released a series of fairly stunning special edition takes on the Clifton, including a tourbillon, this handsome 8-day power reserve model and the unusual five-minute repeater pocket watch.

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The latest addition to this series is a full blown perpetual calendar, housed in a slender, solid 18K red gold case. It’s an extremely elegant piece, thanks to the traditional dial layout and the faceted, vintage-inspired lugs, slightly recessed crown and glassbox sapphire crystal. At 42mm across it’s well sized for a complicated watch, ensuring that there’s enough room on the dial for everything to be legible, but not so big as to lose the old-world charm.

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Looking through the sapphire caseback to the movement in the Clifton Perpetual Calendar, you’ll see something very fine indeed. A very slim (2.6mm) micro-rotor powered Vaucher-supplied calibre 5401 provides the base (interesting that, unlike previous years, this isn’t powered by a Richemont family movement) topped off with a Dubois Depraz 5100 Module to add all the calendar functions. And speaking of functions, this watch shows everything you’d want calendar-wise, including moon phase and leap year (the inner section of the top subdial), without needing any adjustment until 2100. Handy.

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It’s also refreshing to see that Baume & Mercier are so upfront about the type and provenance of these movement parts, rather than using obfuscating marketing double-speak, as is often the case. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about by using externally sourced components, and the quality of both the base movement and the module are major points in this Clifton’s favour.

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On the wrist the Clifton Perpetual Calendar is a joy. Slender (the whole watch is only 11.2mm high), well sized, and with just the right level of vintage overtones it’s a Perpetual Calendar that holds its own against the likes of Montblanc, JLC and IWC. And while a watch of this level will never be a huge seller in Baume & Mercier’s catalogue, that doesn’t make it any less of a worthy project and a beautiful watch.

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Baume & Mercier Clifton Perpetual Calendar Australian pricing

The Baume & Mercier Clifton Perpetual Calendar, $33,000

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