HANDS ON: The Baume & Mercier Riviera delivers 70s style on an integrated bracelet

HANDS ON: The Baume & Mercier Riviera delivers 70s style on an integrated bracelet

Fergus Nash

If you’re going to draw inspiration from anything, the French Riviera is as good as it gets. Baume & Mercier’s Riviera line stems from the trauma of the 1970s, when Swiss watchmaking was under fire from the quartz uprising and adaptation was pivotal. Among the early brands to emerge with their heads held high were Baume & Mercier. They embraced quartz technology while aligning it with the recreation, luxury and beauty of the Côte D’Azur, utilising a 12-sided dodecagonal case and a faceted steel integrated bracelet.

Nearly 50 years on, and the definitions of luxury have undoubtedly changed. The baroque stylings of the intense ’70s designs have become celebrated, the average wealth of Monaco inhabitants has skyrocketed, and you’re more likely to see the elite driving a V12-powered Mercedes SUV than the latest Ferrari or Rolls-Royce. The flagship models for Baume & Mercier’s Riviera range have also changed to reflect this, with emphasis put on sportiness, practicality, and their own in-house movement.

The dial

The Riviera vibe is all about snappy suits during the day, and open shirts during the balmy evenings. This attitude of dressy-meets-sporty isn’t exactly unique among watches, but it’s rarely achieved as cohesively as with this. Admittedly, these two models in particular stray closer to the sports spectrum, with their chevron-pattered dials made from a tinted sapphire disk that lets you spy on the in-house movement. The chevrons are a pleasing pattern in their own right, but they actually represent the sea and mountains of the watch’s namesake.

The smarter side of the watch is more evident in the Roman numerals at 12 and 6, regardless of their luminous fillings, as well as the simple and elegant seconds hand that reaches to the dial’s extremities. On the blue model, the radially brushed bezel creates a sunburst effect that enhances the dressiness even more. The words ‘BAUMATIC’ and ‘5 DAYS’ are printed above the 6 o’clock, proudly broadcasting the technology that lies beneath.

The case

Although it’s been upscaled to a modern sporty 42mm in diameter, the Riviera’s classic 12-sided dodecagonal case is surprisingly comfortable, given it’s thinness of 10.66mm and the integrated bracelet helping it conform to the wrist. Overall, it appears as a much more refined product than the 1973 version, with every piece in perfect proportion – it’s bold not kitsch.

The integration of strap and case is very smooth, with a flaring lug that almost gives the multi-faceted case a bubble silhouette when viewed from far away. If anything, that only makes it more versatile, as it won’t be instantly recognised by strangers as a “weird” watch. The steel reference with a bracelet plays with the light in all the fun ways you would expect, especially around the chamfered edges of the bezel, while the black-coated version is a lot more stealthy, and a whole lot more edgy.

The movement

Baume & Mercier’s in-house movement for the Riviera is the Baumatic BM13-1975A, with a 120-hour power reserve, as you may have seen on the dial text, and a beat rate of the Swiss standard 28,800vph. Although you get a tasteful sneak peek at the movement from the translucent dial, the real special view is through the sapphire caseback. It has been quite lavishly decorated with Côte de Genève on the skeletonised automatic winding rotor and a barrage of perlage on the main plate. There’s some wavy striping around the movement’s perimeter as well, and the window into the balance wheel gives you something to stare at as the watch ticks on.

The straps

In the ’70s, an integrated bracelet usually meant that you had to get used to whatever the watch came with. Although that can still be true, even though bracelet manufacturing is generally much better today, thankfully quick-change systems and strap options are becoming a widely standardised feature on luxury watches. The Baume & Mercier system is as easy as they come, and each rubber strap in black, blue, or green can be added to your cart for $200AUD.

The verdict

Water resistance of 100m means that this isn’t a diving watch, but it’s more than enough for a swim in the sparkling waters of southern France. If you’re looking for a Swiss sports watch that’s a bit unusual but still full of prestige, then the Baume & Mercier Riviera with an in-house movement could well be the choice for you.

Baume & Mercier Riviera pricing and availability:

The Baume & Mercier Riviera is available now. The black model on rubber is $6,100AUD, and the blue model on steel is $5,550

Made in partnership with Baume & Mercier. However, the opinions expressed in this article are our own in accordance with our Editorial Policy.