The 50th anniversary of the Baume & Mercier Riviera culminates with an exclusive Time+Tide celebrationJamie Weiss
When the Baume & Mercier Riviera first hit the market in 1973 – a year after the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak but years before other rivals such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus, Girard-Perregaux Laureato and Vacheron Constantin 222 – it immediately caused a stir. Its avant-garde dodecagonal case, flat H-shaped bracelet and neo-vintage aesthetic perfectly embodied the joie de vivre of lavish living on the French Riviera (hence the name) and made it a solid hit among watch aficionados.
More approachable than its competition yet unmistakably edgy and modern, the Riviera quickly became one of Baume & Mercier’s most iconic and influential watch collections. It’s subtly evolved over the years (for example, gaining a three-link bracelet and exposing screws on its bezel) but its essential design has remained intact, despite the vast array of complications and materials it’s been imagined in.
50 years later, the Riviera remains Baume & Mercier’s best-known model, with 2023 seeing some dynamic new takes on the Riviera formula join the range – such as the Riviera Azur 300m, a tool watch take on the Riviera that stands out as one of the only integrated bracelet dive watches on the market; the now-sold-out Riviera Perpetual Calendar, which has set a new standard for luxury for the brand; the travel-focused Riviera GMT and smaller 33mm and 39mm sizes for the three-handed Riviera.
In short, it’s been a year to celebrate – which is perhaps why Baume & Mercier collaborated with us on an exclusive event to commemorate the Riviera’s 50th anniversary last week.
We were stoked to be involved. It was our first-ever brand partner event in our new Time+Tide Discovery Studio in Melbourne – it was very cool to see our space filled up with guests. The weather’s a bit chilly in the French Riviera right now but Melbourne put on a lovely warm night for us, with collectors from all across Melbourne and Australia in attendance for the event.
We transformed the studio into a temple to all things Baume, with references from all their collections, but especially from the Riviera range, on display for the night. T+T’s team of able retail assistants (including our gun new assistant manager Alex and shop manager Kieran) were on hand to help guests try on new references… There were a few very cool old Baume & Merciers in the room on the night too, including some vintage Hamptons and Riviera Chronographs being worn by attendees.
I had the chance to chat with Mr Frank Lam, Managing Director Asia-Pacific for Baume & Mercier, on the night, where we discussed the Riviera’s enduring popularity, Frank’s take on the current state of the watch market in the region, as well as Baume & Mercier’s plans for the future. We touched on the fact that Baume & Mercier was one of the first Swiss watch brands in Australia, with the brand (then called Freres Baume) exhibiting at the famous Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880.
Frank shared how Baume & Mercier’s been particularly successful in the Asia-Pacific in recent years – but that it’s also particularly popular in European markets like Italy and Switzerland itself. We also talked about how the Riviera Perpetual Calendar introduced this year sold out almost immediately on launch – a point of pride for Baume & Mercier that demonstrates the brand’s growing reputation among enthusiasts.
Frank also teased that we can expect more high-complication Rivieras from Baume in the future, as well as a Year of the Dragon watch to celebrate the Lunar New Year next year… Keep your eyes peeled for that one.
We also had some rare vintage Riviera pieces on display in our exhibition space for the event – it’s not often that vintage references like these make their way Down Under from Switzerland, so we were thrilled to be able to share these Baumes with the community. These watches will remain at the Time+Tide Discovery Studio over the coming week so that all those who weren’t able to make it on the night will be able to check them out for themselves. We’re also selling Rivieras in the studio for the week as well.
Thanks to all those who were able to make it on the night! Swing by and check out the vintage (and new) Rivieras if you’re in town.