UPDATE: We wrongly indicated that the Seiko Hi-Beat was a electromechanical movement, what we were referring to is the Spring Drive by Seiko. Apologies.
SIHH has been a centre of innovation in watchmaking for many years. After all the brands represented here are the representatives of haute horlogerie and thus, spend plenty of dollars on research and development. The results are often surprising, but impressive.
Piaget has, for a very long time, been involved in watch development, both as part of the Richemont Group and also because of its background as a watch movement manufacturer. The ValFleurier manufacture that is owned by the brand shares not only knowledge and movement architecture across the group, but also is closely aligned with Piaget.
This year marks 40 years since Piaget presented its ultra-thin quartz movement, the 7P. The Quartz crisis taught the industry a lesson: innovate and adapt or be destroyed. Companies such as Piaget banded together to develop the Beta 21 movement, an electroquartz product that was precise to 5 seconds a month. To commemorate that and also to continue to re-invent in watchmaking, Piaget presented the Emperador Coussin XL 700P this year. The watch offers a mechanical gear train system and a self-winding movement, but adapted with an electrodynamic generator and a quartz oscillator rather than a Swiss escapement. The oscillator vibrates at 32,768Hz when a current is passed through it, and this is stepped down to 5.33Hz, which then allows the gear train to match with the rate and thus be regulated. It’s pretty much the same as a standard gear train and not unlike the Seiko Hi-Beat (sorry, Spring Drive), but with haute de gamme quality watchmaking behind it. It’s finished in stunning Piaget fashion as usual, and is precise to 0/+2 seconds a day, though we’ve been informed that it’s in fact much more precise that that.
Likewise, Urwerk is also focusing its attention on its second edition of an electromechanical watch, the EMC2. The properties of the watch are similar to Piaget’s, but Urwerk contains a standard Swiss escapement movement that can then be adjusted to a greater precision by yourself using a 16MHz reference oscillator and an integrated circuit board that’s externally powered by a capacitor and charged manually. The watch has a fine tuning adjustor and the circuit board is linked with a display that shows the variation per day, based on your activity. You can then adjust it yourself to suit your own lifestyle. It puts the power of precision in your own hand and that is definitely appealing to some.
Two editions are available, with the military green one definitely having our thumbs up because it comes with a wool herringbone strap that’s produced by Timothy Everest. But the grey edition is pretty beautiful as well, and Urwerk advises us that both use the same lacquered case production that’s similar to the ones used on guns. For a clearer explanation, here’s the first edition of the EMC as explained by Urwerk in a video.
Van Cleef & Arpels
Coming along the heels of its Midnight Planetarium success last year, where it presented an orrery movement that was just beautiful, Van Cleef & Arpels showed that it was no slouch in innovation as well. The Midnight Lumineuse combines a hand-generated electric circuit with LED lights that are set below 6 diamonds. These are lit up on demand, and form the Monoceros constellation on the dial.
Using a piezo-ceramic set of blades that vibrate at very high frequencies of around 140Hz, this produces a momentary current of around 8 volts which then power the LED lights. The lights are linked in a parallel circuitry using pearls that are electroplated with a conductive material which they are set on (that’s brilliant, in our opinion). It’s a clever idea, and Van Cleef & Arpels are of course considering other ways in which they can use this. One potential is in lighting up displays in the dark, instead of luminous material. The rest you can imagine.
Panerai has a new Lo Scienzato this year in a sintered titanium case, but that’s not what thrills us about the brand today. Instead, it’s a harking back to the past with a new special edition of two key pieces: the Luminor Black Seal and Luminor Daylight. The two are based on pre-Vendome Panerai watches and are highly coveted in the community for their cult status, in particular the Daylight that was commissioned by Stallone for the movie and thus made Panerai a world-famous brand.
Only 500 pieces will be produced, and they are sold as a set. The box comes with a model of the human torpedo. These will be released in the middle of the year, so get your orders in because we can practically guarantee that they will fly off the shelves. Both watches bear the P.5000 movement by Panerai.
H. Moser & Cie.
On a personal note, I’ve frequently commented that the Moser Perpetual Calendar is probably the only one that I’d ever consider buying, simply because it’s so legible and simple to operate. One crown position to adjust date, sweeping forwards and backwards freely and with a short hand to indicate the month on the dial, according to the hour markers, while the small date window sits at 3 o’clock. On the back of the movement is the leap year display.
Now the Perpetual Calendar comes in a midnight blue fume dial, as well as a special edition with a movement that’s fully crafted in gold. This special edition (only 10) was inspired by a vintage Moser pocket watch made for a Russian and bears guiloche and grand feu enamel on the hinged case front and sides, while the hinged case back reveals the movement. Stunning? Definitely.
An unexpected development at Greubel Forsey was the introduction of a non-tourbillon timepiece, an “entry-level” experience into Greubel Forsey, if you will. Though, at 155,000 SFr, we’re not sure who’s entering the watch buying market at this level. The Signature 1 does have its unique sell: each watch will be completely made by one single watchmaker for each series, and the first Signature 1 series will be co-signed with Didier J. G. Cretin. They come with a Greubel Forsey exclusive balance wheel system and a flat escapement (no angled escapement here, but with a very large balance wheel).
Like with all Greubel Forsey timepieces, these are highly limited, at 33 in steel, 11 in platinum and 11 in red and white gold respectively. Since the company only makes a 100-odd pieces each year, this will form the bulk of production this year.