The first day of any overseas watch fair is pretty much a blur of lights and (occasionally ticking) sounds for Felix and me. Don’t blame that on the boogie, blame it on the tyranny of distance. For the friends we are yet to meet this week in Geneva, here’s a pre-emptive answer for you: “We landed the afternoon before doors opened.” Stepping off a 24-hour flight from some mythical place known as Australian summer into a blizzard of snow and new watches means that few stand out from the maelstrom. These are the five that did from Day One of SIHH 2017.
The Panerai PAM671 – the blue dialled Bronzo
It lives! Some mocked our crystal ball skills when we published these predictions a few days ago, but critics should note we were profoundly right when we suggested Panerai might release a blue-dialled Bronzo to stand muscly shoulder to muscly shoulder with its rare and highly sought-after green-dialled brother. And choosing between them for most handsome is even more difficult than with the Hemsworth family. The combination of deep, navy blue dial with the gold-like hue of the new bronze, and then the luscious chocolate-rich brown strap… Be still our beating wrists. The issue for you, suddenly-desire-stricken-watch-lover-and-future-Paneristi, might be getting your hands on one. Rumours abound that the 1000 pieces are already allocated. We suggest you call and cozy up to your nearest Panerai dealer right now. To speed dial! For an in-the-hand video, check out this one by our buddies at Panerai Central. We’ll be bringing you our own hands-on photos and videos in the next couple of days.
What it represents: A mix of safety and receptiveness. Let’s talk honestly here. There is almost no watch more guaranteed to succeed than a blue-dialled Bronzo, and that’s an important pinch-hitter to call up to the plate while Richemont and the wider watch business continue to grapple with declining exports to China. But to be generous to Panerai, while it’s a sure thing for the company bottom line as a Limited Edition that will sell out immediately, it’s also a sign they’re listening to the market, because the clamour from fans for another Bronzo has been deafening since the first was released.
The Montblanc Rally Timer
We’re talking about watches that catch the eye here, and while this one is never going to slip gracefully past your field of view, that’s not the only reason it made the cut. This unusual pocket/wrist/dashboard timepiece inspired by a historic Minerva design that is the very core of 2017’s totally reinvented Timewalker range. In an interview with the Managing Director of Montblanc’s watch division, Davide Cerrato (who, coincidentally, was Global Director of Communications for Officine Panerai when the Bronzo was conceived), he admitted that once the spark for the design of the Rally Timer had taken flame, he knew how he could use its cues to adapt the Timewalker. We’ll keep some of our powder dry on the Rally Timer, which has a lot of cool twists in its design and potential uses, but we do have to disclose that it can be fitted to the dash of your car, thanks to a nifty steel plate with cradle that’s included with the watch.
What it represents: Safety and simplicity. Cerrato’s hallmark, which was exemplified when he was at Tudor, is to reduce a brand’s story to its most potent and simple elements. This automotive direction for the Timewalker collection at large is safe, because guys like sporty chronos, and the vehicle for the new story is simple, placing Montblanc squarely in the nostalgic world of vintage cars and steel chronographs. For those who remain sceptical about Montblanc’s connection to motor racing, stay tuned. All of your doubts will be addressed in future posts on Time+Tide, because we went there. We asked the tough questions.
The IWC Da Vinci Automatic
Watches weren’t the only thing to demand our attention in the IWC booth. It is without doubt the most lavish at SIHH 2017 and, stepping onto its black and white tiled floor, I couldn’t help but be transported to Kings Landing, from Game of Thrones. Was it the emotive strings surging through the speakers? The twittering of a thousand swallows in the domed ceiling? It didn’t really matter, it was opulent, it was feminine, it provided a perfect backdrop for the relaunch of the Da Vinci range. This one stood out for being another ‘first good watch’ contender for someone who’d find the Mark XVIII Pilot a little too tool-watchy. The 40mm Da Vinci Automatic is dressy, classic and resplendent with lots of nice little touches including chunky applied Arabic numerals and a lovely silver dial. It has an indicative RRP of $7700.
What it represents: The official end of the ‘Engineered for Men’ advertising slogan! We prophesied this in a post way back in 2014 and it’s frankly refreshing to see the reality playing out of watches more focused on women. Also, it represents two poles of the market that are emerging as most important. The entry level, well captured here with a time-only automatic at an excellent price, and the fine watchmaking end of town, with the highly complicated perpetual calendars, tourbillons and the like.
The Cartier Drive de Cartier Extra Flat Watch
It feels like a case of coming home for the extraordinarily elegant (try saying that a few times in a row with jetlag) new ‘Extra Flat’ Drive models, available in pink and white gold. Measuring in at a slight 6.6mm, which is 40 per cent slimmer than the standard Drive, it slips straight onto the very contour of your wrist and glides under your shirt sleeve like a letter into a mail slot. The Drive was always a dress watch despite its sporty leanings, but this just proves it beyond any doubt. The satin-finished light grey dial also amps up the gloss and class. Limited to 200 pieces. Indicative pricing around $24,000.
What it represents: Cartier being Cartier. Of all the brands displaying this year, Cartier has had the least ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the inclement times the wider watch world is enduring. There are no new ‘entry level’ watches to appeal to the hip pocket. No rapid reinventions. No fallback popular designs. Just another gleaming line-up of new watches that make sense and cause desire.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control
With a view to enticing a new audience, the Master Control has been completely restyled for modern tastes and at an entry-level price (for JLC, that is) of around 8000CHF. The size is just under 40mm, the looks are crisp and classic on the front, and they’re seriously rivalled by the caseback, which reveals a solid pink gold oscillating mass that was first introduced in the Geophysic model. The needle hands have proven a little controversial, and clearly they’re not for all tastes, but as an overall package it’s a sound chess move for a brand whose fine watchmaking is unimpeachable – and now, more contemporary than before.
What it represents: We’ll say it again: safety. A move to capture entry-level luxury watch consumers reflects some consideration of creating new markets and building new loyalties. Also, there is a spirit of offering more value here, as throughout the presentation there was mention of the pink gold rotor – to become standard in all JLC automatic calibres – being of a higher quality than previous at this price point.
What on earth is SIHH? (The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie)
We’re so glad you asked.