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AUDEMARS PIGUET.

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OFFICINE PANERAI.

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VACHERON CONSTANTIN.

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RICHARD MILLE.

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PIAGET.

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A. LANGE & SOHNE.

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PARMIGIANI.

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BOVET 1822.

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ULYSSE NARDIN.

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IWC.

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MONTBLANC.

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BAUME & MERCIER.

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GREUBEL FORSEY.

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CARTIER.

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JAEGER-LECOULTRE.

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HERMES.

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GIRARD-PERREGAUX.

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ROGER DUBUIS.

Best In Show

The recent 29th Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) saw watchmakers showcasing their latest designs and innovations in Geneva. Here’s our pick of the standout pieces this year.
Feb 8, 2019 5:50 AM

1. AUDEMARS PIGUET

Audemars Piguet (AP) was making headlines even before SIHH 2019 kicked off, thanks to its newly launched Code 11:59 collection. Unveiled a day before the fair opened, it was the most talked-about watch at the fair, with most going online to mock it for looking like nothing AP has ever done.

To be fair, Code 11:59 is the first new collection that the brand has launched in over a quarter of a century. Over the decades, AP has become synonymous with its iconic Royal Oak, the Gerald Genta-designed hexagonal timepiece that the company built its name and fortune on. Pulling off something as audacious as the Code 11:59, which has a – gasp – round (outer) case is a bold move even if it means dividing the critics and collectors for now.

There are 13 models in the collection, ranging from self-winding ones that feature the new in-house calibre 4302 (with a 22-karat gold oscillating weight) to others with chronograph, flying tourbillon, perpetual calendar and minute repeater supersonnerie complications.

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The devil is in the details and one of the reasons Code 11:59 has been ripped apart by netizens is that the pictures don't do enough justice to the work that has been put into the design. To fully appreciate the collection, you'll need to handle the watches and discover the Royal Oak-inspired hexagonal mid-case; and witness technical feats such as the double curved crystal which not only cuts out glare but is a unique optical experience on its own.

Like Richard Mille, this is AP's final year at SIHH. Talk about going out with a bang.


2. OFFICINE PANERAI

Panerai fans with smaller wrists used to lament that they couldn't find a watch from the brand that didn’t make them look like they were wearing a hockey puck. Well, they have no reason to complain now that Panerai has introduced not one or two, but three novelties (PAM00960, PAM00683 and PAM00959) in 42mm.

It's still chunky but smaller than the usual 44mm, 45mm and 47mm Panerai Luminor and Radiomir we've come to know; and as a dive watch, 42mm hits the sweet spot in wearability. The PAM00959, in particular, stood out with its textured shark grey dial in blue ceramic bezel disc and matching rubber strap.

Panerai also used this year's SIHH to introduce the Submersible range as a new standalone collection and three very limited editions come bundled with experiences that money otherwise can't buy.

The PAM00961 Submersible Marina Militare Carbotech (33 pieces) includes a two-day training boot camp with the Italian Navy Commandos; the PAM00985 Submersible Mike Horn Edition (19 pieces) comes with an ocean-saving expedition with its namesake explorer; and the PAM00983 Submersible Chrono Guillaume Nery Edition (15 pieces) includes a dive in Mo'orea in French Polynesia with the freediving world champion.


3. VACHERON CONSTANTIN

Here's something no ordinary mechanical watch can do: boast a power reserve of 65 days. But Vacheron Constantin has done what seems like the impossible with its Traditionalle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar, a high complication, user-controlled dual-frequency luxury timepiece with over two months of power reserve.

It works by running on two oscillators – one high beat at 5 Hz and another low beat at 1.2 Hz – which are worked into the new in-house Calibre 3610 QP. The wearer operates via a pusher at the eight o'clock position - selecting 1.2 Hz when it's off the wrist will ensure the watch continues ticking for over two months. Having an extra long power reserve is an extremely useful function because you can now sleep easy knowing the perpetual calendar will be keeping time even if you don’t wear it for a prolonged period.


4. RICHARD MILLE

It looked like Willy Wonka was responsible for the design of Richard Mille's booth at SIHH, as the wild child of watchmaking unleashed a riot of colours to celebrate its Collection Bonbon. (Either that or Mille is a huge Candy Crush fan.)

Separated into a Sweets and Fruits line, the 10 models surprised everybody with its acid bright hues and were designed by artistic director Cecile Guenat - daughter of Mille’s partner Dominique Guenat.

The amount of detail that went into recreating the various candies and fruits is nothing short of breathtaking, considering the level of craftsmanship required to make the miniature sculptures of blueberries, lemons, marshmallows, lollipops, gumdrops and more that adorn the timepieces.

That's not all. For extra realism,  some of the fruity treats even look sugar-coated – an effect achieved by using powdered enamel and fine sand used in hourglasses.

Only 30 pieces of each model were produced and Richard Mille sold all of them during the four-day fair. Incidentally, the brand will not be exhibiting at next year's SIHH. We're already missing them.


5. PIAGET

Skinny watches that look timeless and elegant on both male and female wrists continue to be Piaget's forte and it did not disappoint with this year's novelties. The watches and high jewellery brand went a step further, incorporating dials made out of meteorite in two of its ultra-thin Altiplano pieces for an out-of-this-world look.

The first is a minimalist pink-gold 40mm Altiplano that allows the grey meteorite dial to stand out. A limited edition of only 300 pieces will be produced.

Even more eye-catching is the 41mm pink gold Altiplano Tourbillon which puts both Piaget's gem-setting and complicated watchmaking expertise on display. It's truly poetry in motion – the dark blue meteorite dial reminiscent of outer space, the diamonds on the bezel sparkling like a galaxy of stars around it, and the flying tourbillon rotating like a planet. Only 28 pieces are available.


6. A. LANGE & SOHNE

Love a throwback? Then you'll want the silver jubilee version of the Lange 1. To mark the iconic watch's 25th anniversary this year, A. Lange & Sohne has released a special 250-piece limited edition in white gold.

From the front, the watch looks familiar with its outsized date and asymmetrical dial, except the markings are in blue and different parts of the dial feature a different silver finish to give it more texture. But turn it around to discover some extra details which have been incorporated into the anniversary edition: like an engraved hunter case depicting the Lange headquarters at Ferdinand-Adolph-Lange-Platz 1 in Glashütte; and the names of founders Walter Lange and Günther Blümlein flanking it,  the watch's moniker, and '25 years' in German.

That's not all. When you flip open the hunter case, the balance cock is decorated with engravings filled in blue lacquer. It also sports the number '25', fashioned after the style of the watch's distinctive and technically complex outsized date.

Besides the Lange 1, the Zeitwerk also got a makeover for its tenth anniversary. The new Zeitwerk Date still features the jumping digital display, but gets an added complication in the form of a date which is indicated in red on the edge of the dial.


7. PARMIGIANI

Better known for its round and dressy Tonda and Toric models, Parmigiani shows it also has a sportier side with the Kalpagraphe Chronomètre Titanium. The tonneau-shaped integrated chronograph is made entirely in-house and the movement is shaped to fit exactly inside the case like all Kalpa models. A complex central column wheel instead of a simple cam functions as the nerve centre of the calibre. The platinum oscillating weight is finished with a barley grain guilloché motif.


8. BOVET 1822

Pascal Raffy, owner of Bovet 1822, takes an active interest in designing watches for his brand. In 2010, he pioneered the Amadeo case which can transform a single timepiece into either a wrist, pendant, pocket watch or table clock.

His latest is modelled after a writing desk and the result is a unique-looking case that slopes. It looks great on the Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Recital 21, and the watch’s asymmetrical profile further enhances the unique display of the various high complications on the dial.


9. ULYSSE NARDIN

The evolution of Ulysse Nardin's ever popular Freak continued at this year's SIHH with the Freak X. Several iterations are available but the one that stood out the most was one made from Carbonium, a new complex, high-performance composite material that is light yet strong and boasts a reduced environmental footprint.

Although the Freak X still has no dial or hands to tell the time, a crown has been introduced for the first time and the 43mm piece is smaller than its 45mm predecessors. But the best news for those who always wanted to own a Freak is that this is the most affordable to date, with prices starting from US$21k (S$28.3k) for the titanium version.


10. IWC

You can count on IWC Schaffhausen to put on a show at SIHH and it definitely didn't disappoint this year. To celebrate the launch of its new Pilot's Watches collection, the brand not only converted its booth into a giant hangar, it also flew in a Spitfire plane.

Equally show-stopping were the novelties. Besides presenting a new Spitfire line inspired by the legendary British fighter aircraft and all equipped with in-house calibres, a new Top Gun collection was also unveiled.

The latter features the first pilot timepiece – the Pilot's Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium – to be made from a new material developed by IWC. As its Ceratanium moniker suggests, it's a hybrid ceramic and titanium alloy which is lightweight yet tough and scratch-resistant; and gives the watch an all-over matte jet black look. All case components, including the chronograph buttons and pin buckle, are made from it, and unlike DLC, Ceratanium won't flake over time or even under the toughest conditions.

Another standout in the collection was the Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”, which is the first watch with a case made from sand-coloured ceramic. Like the name implies, the piece is inspired by the Mojave Desert, home to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. The beige hue matches the uniforms worn by Navy pilots and comes from a combination of zirconium oxide and other metallic oxides.


11. MONTBLANC

Vintage watch lovers, look here: the 1858 novelties from Montblanc are inspired by the legendary Minerva professional watches from the 1920s and 1930s used by the military and for the great outdoors. The collection update is a timely one, given that Montblanc is celebrating the 160th anniversary of their in-house manufacture Minerva.

Three of the limited edition mode ls get a bronze case, khaki dial and matching NATO-style fabric strap and we have to say the bronze-khaki colour combination is totally on-point. The smallest in the collection is a 40mm self-winding model while the chronograph and Geosphere versions get chunkier 42mm cases. Rounding up the collection is a handsome split second chronograph which also comes in a bronze case but has a black dial and measures 44mm.

Equally vintage in aesthetic and inspired by Minerva are the six novelties from the Heritage collection. The most eye-catching model is also the most complicated: the Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph which is based on the pulsograph complication used by doctors to measure resting heart rate. The old school look and feel is further enhanced by the salmon coloured dial and the 3, 6 , 9 indicators on the chronograph's minute counter, which back in the day reminded the wearer when to insert a new coin when using a payphone.


12. BAUME & MERCIER

At SIHH 2018, Baume & Mercier made headlines with the Baumatic, its competitively-priced in-house movement which boasts technically-superior features like five days’ power reserve, anti-magnetic properties, high accuracy and long service intervals of five years.

This year, the Maison ups the ante with the high complication Clifton Baumatic Perpetual Calendar. There is something modern about the 18k red gold case, while the warm white porcelain finish dial gives the watch a classic look. The black alligator strap is also easily interchangeable to match your outfit of the day.


13. GREUBEL FORSEY

It's almost as if Greubel Forsey might have heard some watch aficionados lamenting it's hard to carry off its chunky creations because at this year’s SIHH, it rolled out the compact Balancier Contemporain which measures just 39.6mm.

Due to the limited space in the smaller-than-usual case, fitting the exclusively-designed 12.6mm diameter balance wheel became a challenge. But Greubel Forsey not only pulled it off,  it also kept the watch’s aesthetic in line with the artistic design codes of the Atelier.


14. CARTIER

In 1904, Louis Cartier created the world's first pilot watch for his friend, Alberto Santos-Dumont, so the Brazilian aviator could wear it without fumbling around for his wrist watch – the timepiece of choice then – while up in the air. Over a century later, the Cartier Santos collection has turned into a hot seller for the luxury maison and the watch's iconic square case is instantly recognisable even from a mile away.

For this year's SIHH, Cartier pays homage to the historic model by updating a few minor details of the original. For instance, a new quartz Santos-Dumont Watch with a high efficiency quartz movement that will run for approximately six years – twice as long as a typical quartz movement – has been introduced. This feat is achieved by reworking and resizing the calibre to reduce energy consumption and the result is not only a longer-lasting watch, but one with a more stylish pared-down case.

The Cartier Manufacture has also rebooted the Santos De Cartier Chronograph Watch by removing the two traditional pushers found on the top and bottom of the crown and relocating them to the opposite side of the case, where the start-stop function can be activated by just a single button.For the Santos De Cartier Skeleton Noctambule Watch, the bridges have been coated with Super LumiNova so the light it captures during the day results in an alluring glow when night falls.


15. JAEGER-LECOULTRE

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetuel packs in numerous complications into a surprisingly compact and definitely wearable 43mm x 14.08mm case. It achieves this feat by shrinking components like the multi-axis tourbillon, which is significantly smaller – just 0.4 grams and 8.8mm in diameter – than the ones used in the previous four Gyrotourbillon models. The constant force mechanism also ensures the watch remains precise at all times.

Not only that, the minute repeater is also a unique one. Using four sets of hammers and gongs, it chimes the Westminster melody made famous by Big Ben. Last but not least, unlike a normal perpetual calendar mechanism which can only be adjusted in one direction, the one in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetuel can move forwards or backwards.


16. HERMES

Trust Hermes to do moonphase not only right but in a classy and innovative way.

The Hermes Arceau L'Heure De La Lune does just that with two lacquer sub-dials – one telling the time and the other displaying the date – which rotate over two mother-of-pearl moons indicating the moonphase in the northern and southern hemispheres. (Look closely and you'll notice a blink-and-you'll-miss-it etching of the Hermes pegasus by artist Dimitri Rybaltchenko on one of the moons.)

What this also means is you get a (fashionista-approved) watch with a dial that looks different as time goes by.


17. GIRARD-PERREGAUX

It's difficult not to be awed by Girard-Perregaux's Bridges Cosmos – an out-of-this-world horological masterpiece that combines a tourbillon, sky chart and world time function into a dark, mysterious bead-blasted titanium watch that looks like it came from the future.

Two three-dimensional globes take centrestage on the dial: the one on the left is a customisable zodiac constellations indicator, and the other serves as a day-night indicator and second time zone. There is no crown and all adjustments are made via keys on the back.


18. ROGER DUBUIS

Roger Dubuis takes high watchmaking to all-new levels with its brand of “hyper horology” executed by “raging mechanics”. Call it audacious but the Maison – famed for its avant-garde creations – is bent on keeping one's pulse racing with the flashy Excalibur Huracan.

A watch that is not afraid of being labelled as loud, it's developed in partnership with Lamborghini Squadra Corse and takes its design cues from the Huracan. From the front, you'll see the iconic supercar's muscular hexagonal lines and honeycomb structures replicated on the skeleton dial which puts the RD630 calibre in full display. A unique 12-degree angled balance wheel adds to the mystique and even the rotor takes after the design of the supercar's rims.