Watches from the class of 2017 are much like those of 2016 – they’re simple, less expensive and less complicated – and a million miles from the 2012 vintage. Or are they? As watch customers tighten their belts, it would seem at first sight that everything has been ratcheted down a notch. But if you look at the very top drawer, the number of high-complication watches introduced this year makes it look more like a very special year indeed. In quantity, variety and intensity, 2017 is an exceptional vintage for watches with more than the average number of hands.
Major brands like Breguet, Cartier and Lange are singing from their habitual songsheets, but the same applies to more modest brands like Hysek and Bovet. Specialists of the superlative, like Greubel Forsey and Richard Mille, are humming along to the same tune as Montblanc. Highly optimised and versatile multi-complication movements are competing with extraordinarily refined but more specialised mechanisms.
A well-heeled and well-informed collector could find himself hesitating between two very different styles and formats. On one side, you might have an astronomical watch with a tourbillon, a ten-day power reserve and other delights, like the Récital 20 Astérium by Bovet, with its pure classical styling. On the other, there could be Hysek’s Colossal, with a list of complications and spec sheet (time of manufacture, number of parts, dimensions) to make your head spin.
Récital 20 Astérium © Bovet 1822
Colossal © Hysek
This same collector may have to choose between a monster of complexity and a monster of complications. For the complications, the Tourbograph Pour le Mérite by German watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne offers a package including a tourbillon, fusée and chain, perpetual calendar and split-seconds chronograph, with a thickness and weight to match. For complexity, there’s the Richard Mille Style Watches Replica RM 50-03 McLaren F1, which plays the high-tech card in terms of materials, lightness and rigidity, with a tourbillon, split-seconds chronograph, function indicators and the whole bag of tricks, made of a carbon fibre/graphene composite material inside and out.
Tourbograph © David Chokron/WorldTempus
RM 50-03 McLaren F1 © David Chokron/WorldTempus
For a more modest outlay (relatively speaking) he might also look at a watch that could be considered the quintessence of Cartier’s haute horlogerie expertise. The Rotonde Répétition Minutes Double Tourbillon Mystérieux manages to be spectacular, intriguing and iconoclastic all at once. Conversely, the ExoTourbillon Rattrapante by Montblanc comes straight out of its Villeret workshops, where everything is done the old-fashioned way, by hand, in-house, with an obsessive attention to detail and a reverence for the very best of traditional craftsmanship.
Among the interesting things about Richard Mille’s association with leading athletes is that, as is famously true for Rafael Nadal, part of this deal is that the watches are worn throughout the actual athletic events, which subjects them to rare tests of the durability. That is all the more striking thinking about the average cost of a Richard Mille watch, and that tradition continues with these two new watches. The general styling is bright and brash, but that’s the purpose for so many of the new watches, also you cannot deny that the specifications are striking – 32g to get a self-winding watch is remarkable. You can expect to find these watches around the wrists of Mutaz Essa Barshim and Wayde van Niekerk in the 2017 World Championships in Athletics, which will take place in London from August 5 to August 13. The Richard Mille RM 67-02 Sprint and High Jump are priced in the UK at #116,000 using taxes.One of the interesting things about Richard Mille’s association with top athletes is that, as is famously the case with Rafael Nadal, a part of the deal is that the watches are worn throughout the genuine athletic events, which issues them into rare tests of the durability. That is even more striking thinking about the typical cost of a Richard Mille watch, and that tradition continues with these two new watches. The overall styling is bright and brash, but that is the purpose for a lot of their brand’s watches, and you can’t deny that the specifications are impressive – 32g to get a self-winding watch is remarkable. The Richard Mille RM 67-02 Sprint and High Jump are costly in Britain at #116,000 together with taxation.
Rotonde Répétition Minutes Double Tourbillon Mystérieux © Cartier
Exo Tourbillon Rattrapante © David Chokron/WorldTempus
The grand complication remains an haute horlogerie staple, particularly when it comes to introducing a new family or generation of watches. Breguet is no exception: to launch the latest variant on its Marine, the company opted to give it a tourbillon, retrograde perpetual calendar, equation of time and power reserve. The forest of simpler models may help to conceal the great trees that continue to fly the flag for watchmaking excellence. But you just have to look carefully: the sequoias are always visible above the horizon.
Marine Equation Marchante 5887 © Breguet