Taking place over four days in January, the SIHH conference is an exclusive, invitation-only conference for watchmakers and enthusiasts to gather together and see what everyone in the world of watches is up to. The event though is still a global gathering: More than 20,000 people attended the conference this year. The invitees included 35 exhibitors, including four new, up-and-coming fashion houses debuting entirely new watches. Other, long-established companies, like Cartier, were also in attendance.
By far, the most interesting aspect of the show were the new watches. Many of them were ‘tributes’ to previous modes of watches or were an updated version of a classic design. The actual technology of watchmaking has remained relatively unchanged for 50 years or more, so of course style is pre-eminent over function.
Likewise, many watches are produced in only limited series-sometimes less than 100 are made and tribute models are a means of putting out more watches for collectors or first time buyers to acquire without decreasing the value of existing watches (many of which appreciate in value over time). The watches unveiled at the latest conference are sure to become classics, and any gentleman who wants to impress by wearing a sensible watch as complex on the inside as it is beautiful on the outside should look no further.
The watch which probably caused the most excitement was a new offering from the French house of Hermès, which unveiled their new Carré H watch. Apart from the name, which is not exactly inventive (it’s merely French for Square H), the watch is an exciting update on the Hermès’ classic watch from 2010, of which only 1,973 examples were produced.
The Carré H is appropriately enough, actually square, being 38X38mm in dimension. Being square makes it appear larger than a round watch of similar dimensions and lends it a masculine feel, but thanks to the slightly curved profile it sits well on the wrist. The body is made of high-quality steel rather than the titanium of its predecessor, and has a crystal window underneath to view the mechanism.
Unlike its numberless predecessor, this watch has numerals all around the watch-face (which makes the watch easier to read). All of the numerals are two-digits and in a typeface unique to the watch. The watch-face itself also comes in two colours-high-contrast black with a red second-hand or grey with a yellow second-hand. Surrounded by watches made of more exotic materials or with a longer heritage, the Swiss-made Carré H nevertheless stands out in appearance.
Speaking of exotic looks, the “IWC Tribute to Pallweber” was also nothing less than breathtaking. The engraved-gold pocket watch comes from noted Swiss-German house IWC Schaffhausen-notable for being one of the few Germanic horologists in a country dominated by Francophone watchmakers. The watch is, as the name suggests, a tribute to one of the first watches the company produced, around a 150 years ago.
Its main party trick is a unique digital display-instead of rotating hands pointing to numbers, the watch features a rotating disc telling the bearer the time in Arab numerals on an otherwise gorgeously unblemished, white, enamelled-lacquer watch face, albeit with a traditional hand counting the seconds. The body of the watch is made of 18-karat gold and has a wonderfully rich, deep-gold hue. The watch likewise has a reassuring heft to it-one never has to wonder if the watch is still in one’s pocket!
When originally introduced, it was a watch ahead of its time. Today a pocket watch is delightfully behind the time in a market dominated by wrist watches. For the astute, however, this is not a throwback but instead a delightfully charming breath of fresh air wrapped in both nostalgia and history.
No three-piece suit is complete without a watch and chain. It is a look which projects power, eminence, and cultivates respect. The IWC Tribute to Pallweber is likely the most elegant and beautiful pocket watch on the market today, and unlike the many, less expensive options, this watch is not a poseur-it’s the real deal, made by the same people who produced the originals! A man looking to create a refined, classy look-perhaps for a wedding would be wise enough to choose the IWC Pallweber. He better act quickly though, as the company plans to produce only 50 examples!
The final example worth mentioning is also a blast from the past-almost literally. This year, 2018, marks the final year commemorating the centenary of the First World War, and to mark the occasion, Parisian house Ulysse-Nardin unveiled in Geneva, the Marine Torpilleur Military. Mechanically, it is a direct descendant of the pocket chronometers used by sea captains for celestial navigation in an era before GPS satellites. It is a modern watch, which takes full advantage of a century of improvement in timekeeping technology. Chronometers however were highly prized by more than just sailors.
In the First World War, soldiers on the ground and aviators required rugged and highly-accurate timepieces. Whether it was a young lieutenant counting down the seconds until it was time to go ‘over the top’ or an aviator flying a biplane in an open cockpit with no navigational aids, keeping track of time was a matter of life and death.
The Marine Torpilleur Military reflects this legacy with its clean, no-nonsense design prizing functionality over style. Despite this, it is strikingly handsome. The outlined numerals are easy to read even in the dark; the brown leather strap is at once functional keeping the watch tightly bound to one’s wrist, even in high seas or at high altitude. And yet is beautiful to look at and supple to the touch.
The dial is large and its eggshell white colour makes it easy on the eyes while still reflecting plenty of light; the second hand has its own, relatively large dial as well, with the piece’s serial number in red, emblazoned within. The body is a 44mm-case made of sandblasted stainless-steel that gives it a subdued look compared to the usual brushed steel.
Only 600 examples of the Marine Torpilleur Military will be produced-300 in white and another 300 in black with an orange trim. For an adventurer who needs a chronometer there is no better timepiece available. The watch is striking in its simplicity, perfect at keeping time, and yet stunningly good to look at!