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Vacheron Constantin’s Metiers d'Art Fabulex Ornements.

Montblanc’s Timewalker Exotourbillon Minute Chronograph.

Baume & Mercier’s Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar.

Cartier's Pantheres Et Colibri.

Roger Dubuis’ Blossom Velvet Pink.

Panerai’s Radiomir 1940 3 Days Automatic Acciaio.

A Lange & Sohne’s 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst.

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso Classic.

Piaget’s Emperador Coussin XL 700P.

Richard Mille’s RM67-01.

Parmigiani Fleurier’s Tonda Metrographe Abyss Blue.

SIHH 2016: Year of the Diva?

Watch-makers have unveiled teasing surprises in the run-up to the annual De La Haute Horlogerie, and they are setting the pulse of collectors racing.
Jan 2, 2016 5:50 AM

THE Richemont watch brands can't wait to show off their new models. Months before the annual SIHH watch show in Geneva, they have already unveiled pre-SIHH timepieces.

Such teasers offer a glimpse of the things to come when the big show kicks off in a fortnight's time. Apart from the usual re-issues and anniversary novelties, this year's Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie, or the SIHH in short, also has some surprises in store, judging by the preview models.

Jaeger-LeCoultre, one of the 11 Richemont-owned brands taking part in the SIHH, is launching three collections to mark the 85th birthday of its iconic Reverso timepiece. While details of two collections - the Reverso Classic and Reverso Tribute - are disclosed, Jaeger-LeCoultre is keeping mum about the third, the Reverso One.

More of the latter will be revealed only at the opening of the week-long annual SIHH exhibition on Jan 18. All Jaeger-LeCoultre will let on now is that the Reverso One is a new feminine collection.

Indeed, 2016 could just be the Year of the Woman at SIHH, which will also see nine more independent watch-makers showcasing their new launches - other than the Richemont brands and four independents which are already regulars at the event.

Roger Dubuis has declared that SIHH 2016 will be the "Year of the Roger Dubuis Diva" for the brand, which belongs also to Richemont.

"At the SIHH 2016, Roger Dubuis is preparing to raise the curtain on a gorgeous array of Velvet timepieces offering irrefutable confirmation of its ability to meet women's expectations by expressing various facets of feminine nature," it says in a press release.

Roger Dubuis has built a name as "the specialist of architectural and technical mechanics" and the "pioneer of contemporary skeleton calibres". The Velvet collection is set to make it the "jeweller of rare artistic masterpieces".

Two new models from the collection are offered for preview: the Blossom Velvet Pink and the Velvet Secret Heart. Both have a 36 mm case paved with diamonds and are driven by an automatic movement.

Secret Heart's movement also features a biretrograde jumping date. The Blossom Velvet Pink's appeal is more aesthetic. It boasts a mother-of-pearl dial decorated with enamel flowers.

Cartier, Richemont's biggest brand, offers a new lady timepiece for preview: the Pantheres Et Colibri. This is another diamond watch which has the famous jewellery and watch house's ever-present panther icon on its dial.

What's so cool about the Pantheres Et Colibri is when you press the winding crown, a baby panther escapes the mother panther's paw to chase after a gold-winged humming bird. The watch's power reserve is indicated by the length of the bird's flight.

Richemont's oldest brand, Vacheron Constantin, unveils four lady models in its two-year-old Metiers d'Art Fabulex Ornements collection. These showcase the application of the brand's artistic skills in re-interpreting Ottoman architecture, Chinese embroidery, Indian manuscripts and French lacework.

The Limelight Gala is yet another watch for the ladies that's revealed before the SIHH 2016 opens its doors. Like Cartier, its creator Piaget is also a jewellery and watch brand in Richemont's stable.

Recognisable by its round case with two dainty elongated lugs, the Limelight Gala was first launched in the 1970s. It now appears in gold with a Milanese mesh strap.

However, the pre-SIHH timepiece that has got everyone talking about is a new men's watch - Piaget's Emperador Coussin XL 700P. The watch looks familiar in a cushion-shaped case that's identified by the brand's Emperador line. But it's what's beating in it that sets the pulse of watch collectors racing.

The heart of the watch is an automatic movement powered by a micro rotor with a quartz-controlled generator, minus the battery. Vibrating at a frequency higher than normal movements, it keeps time more accurately.

This hybrid quartz-mechanical movement is intended to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Piaget's first in-house quartz movement, the ultra-thin 7P calibre. When the latter was presented in 1976, it was Piaget's answer to the invasion of Japanese quartz watches.

The 700P revisits an old question: Is the mechanical-quartz movement a Swiss or Japanese invention? The evidence stays inconclusive, but watch historians point out that it's the Japanese who first exploited the mechanical-quartz movement commercially. This was in 1999 when Seiko introduced the Spring Drive.

Richemont's Montblanc continues to play the "affordable complications" card, releasing an automatic chronograph with annual calendar. The Heritage Chronometrie Chronograph Quantieme Annuel is listed at about US$10,000 in a stainless steel case (the red gold equivalent costs two times more).

But Montblanc has still some way to go to match the prices of Baume & Mercier, the Richemont brand which has been touting the "affordable luxury" tag much longer. Its pre-SIHH teaser is a chronograph-calendar combo, the Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar, priced at around 4,000 euros (S$6,193) for the steel model.

Another pre-SIHH timepiece that Montblanc has unveiled is the Timewalker Exotourbillon Minute Chronograph, the first in the brand's Timewalker collection to be equipped with its in-house patented Exotourbillon - a gravity-defying complication in which the screw balance is positioned outside of the tourbillon rotating cage, unlike in other tourbillons. This makes the new Montblanc tourbillon-chronograph timepiece more accurate.

Panerai and A Lange & Sohne, both Richemont-owned, went back in time for inspiration to produce their pre-SIHH releases. Panerai's Radiomir 1940 3 Days Automatic Acciaio is the modern version of a sports watch straight from the 1940s. It's the first model in the Radiomir 1940 collection to have a white dial.

Lange retrieved a piece from its 1815 line and gave it a Handwerkskunst - German for "artisanship" - touch, slipping in at the same time two patented mechanisms launched separately earlier to make the 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst the first Lange timepiece that combines a stop-seconds device for the tourbillon and the zero-set mechanism.

The remaining two Richemont brands taking part in SIHH - IWC and Van Cleef & Arpels - are still keeping their SIHH novelties under wraps.

Two of the regular independent watch-makers have also presented pre-SIHH watches. Richard Mille showed off an extra-flat RM 67-01 distinguished also by an extreme use of skeletonisation in its creation.

Parmigiani Fleurier offers the Tonda Metrographe Abyss Blue, a new addition to its more accessibly priced Metro line introduced in 2014. The elegant chronograph has a striking blue dial and is powered by a movement made entirely in-house.

Audemars Piguet and Greubel Forsey, the other two regular independent brands at SIHH, prefer to keep their fans in suspense until opening day.