For four days in January, the luxury watch world took over Geneva’s Palexpo for the annual horological jamboree that is SIHH. Eve’s Watch was there and here’s what we learnt about where women’s watch are in 2017
In January the usually drab hallways of Palexpo were transformed into a plushly carpeted paean to luxury watchmaking. Names not normally seen outside of the most salubrious addresses adorned awnings and selected invitees donned white gloves to handle this year’s first crop of haut horlogerie launches.
People do tend to think of SIHH (or Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie to give it its full name) as a bellweather for the year ahead and rightly so, it is the first watch fair of the year and as such seems to set the tone.
And of course, Eve’s Watch was there and here are the four main things we learnt from this year’s Salon.
It’s all about the moon
Moonphases were everywhere and taking up substantial dial space. This complication has gone from being an apologetic aperture at six or nine o’clock to being resplendently displayed across half the dial.
Girard-Perregaux made the most of the unusual shape of its iconic Cat’s Eye by having its moon set against a star-studded sky, while Baume & Mercier offered a version of its Promesse with a midnight blue dial across the top half of which traversed a moon.
At Jaeger-LeCoultre, its Rendez-Vous allowed the moonphase to take centre stage for the first time, while, on the man’s watch front Cartier made the decision to furnish the latest addition of its Drive de Cartier with a large moon at six o’clock. Looks like lunar madness is here to stay.
Femininity is fierce
We’ve come along way from the likes of Princess Grace being cited as inspiration. This year it was all about strong independent women.
Cartier resurrected its Panthere, a 1980s icon squarely aimed at the Working Girl crowd, while Piaget talked a lot about exceptional femininity and gave us a bold red version of its Alitplano to illustrate its commitment to the cause.
And IWC bucked its trend of being engineered for men by launching an entire collection dedicated to a woman who, if the accompanying video is to be believed, is a dead ringer for Belle in Beauty and the Beast, who, as everyone knows, is one of Disney’s more feisty heroines.
Music to your ears
Why bother reading the time when you can have it chimed out for you? Despite the hunger for luxury watches seemingly on a downturn, some brands decided to eschew easy sellers in steel and instead went all out with the sonneries.
Both Vacheron Constantin and Greubel Forsey brought Grande Sonneries to the table, which is a remarkable feat seeing as a grande sonnerie is one of the most difficult complications to master, though less remarkable when you discover that Vacheron’s grande sonnerie was developed with Complitime, the company founded in 2001 by the duo in order to create complicated movements for other luxury watch brands.
But back to the difference between grande sonneries and minute repeaters. With a minute repeater when the wearer wants to activate the chimes they move a slide that winds a spring; a grande sonnerie is far more complex – invariably it has an autonomous mechanism equipped with two barrels one powering the movement and the other to power the striking mechanism, which either chimes the hours and/or quarters automatically or on demand.
It’s an impressive piece of watchmaking that only around seven names can make.
Also chiming in (sorry we couldn’t resist) was Jaeger-LeCoultre that brought out its Sonatina addition to the Rendez-Vous collection. For this update, you not only set the star to the time of the rendez-vous but chime will sound to let you know the hour is at hand.
Not one to let a trend pass it by, Cartier fitted its Rotonde de Cartier model with a minute repeater.
Gold is back
We’ve already mentioned the all-gold slinkiness that is the Cartier Panthere but there were plenty of other showings for the yellow metal. Audemars Piguet followed up its Instagram-friendly men’s all-gold Royal Oak with two similar options for women.
First there was the Royal Oak Frosted Gold, which had a roughened look thanks to a micro-hammering technique the brand developed with Carolina Bucci, a renowned Italian jeweller for whom this technique is her calling card.
If that didn’t appeal there was also a Royal Oak with diamond set across the dial and bracelet that was meant to look like a smattering of snowflakes.
Van Cleef & Arpels is mechanically hardcore
Van Cleef’s stock in trade might be romance and whimsy but when it comes to the technical wizardy required to power these beautiful creations, this brand is as hardcore as anyone. The SIHH presentation was, hands down, the most technical we saw. Its Lady Arpels Papillon Automate watch is an incredible feat of engineering, with the butterfly on the dial powered by your daily movement. The more you move the more the butterfly automaton, which is mounted on a separate set of gears, flaps its wings.
If that wasn’t impressive enough it also unveiled its Automate Fee Ondine. This clock features a fairy sitting on a lily pad next to a flower. When activated, the ripples of the lily pad wake the sleeping fairy, who then lifts her head to gaze at the flower, which then opens to reveal a butterfly at its centre. She watches the butterfly flutter for a moment before the flower closes, the fairy falls back to sleep and the lily pad stills.
It’s technically complex, jaw-droppingly beautiful to look at and probably the best timekeeping device we’ll see all year. Though there are still 11 months for the industry to prove us wrong.