Having spent four days immersed in the luxury microcosm that is SIHH, trends are hard not to spot.
Perhaps the most pronounced and surprising was the return to favour of bimetal watches with both Audemars Piguet and Baume & Mercier announcing that the flashy favourite of the 1980s is once again on-trend. Audemars Piguet unveiled its signature standard Royal Oak in a version crafted from steel with pink gold bezel, crown and bracelet links. The redesigned Classima, Baume & Mercier’s entry-level collection, also gained a two-tone example with gold bezel and bracelet links. Bimetal is by no means a contemporary look, especially when used on the decades old Royal Oak design. This renewed push for the aesthetic is perhaps simply a sign that the 1980s is now considered vintage, or at the very least heritage.
A more pleasing trend on show in Geneva was marked by numerous automatic watches using alternative rotor forms such micro-rotors and even peripheral rotors. Both techniques are more costly and complicated to achieve than placing a standard semi-circular auto-winding rotor on the back of a movement but allow for the creation of a much slimmer movement as well as offering a better view of said movement and any decoration that has been applied to it.
Vacheron Constantin this year celebrates its 260th anniversary with the introduction of a series of in-house chronograph movements, its first in recent years, including several limited edition runs within the new cushion-cased Harmony collection. The most exclusive of these, the Harmony Ultra-Thin, manages the feat of becoming the world’s slimmest automatic monopusher, split-second chronograph because of its peripheral rotor that oscillates around circumference of the movement.
Undisputed champion of the ultra-thin watch, Piaget used a micro-rotor contained within the skeletonised movement of its new Emperador Coussin 1270S while Roger Dubuis carved the brand’s signature star motif into the skeletonised micro-rotor used at the heart of its Automatic Skeleton.Skeletons too could be considered a trend with Roger Dubuis proclaiming 2015 the year of the Astral Skeleton while Ralph Lauren skeletonised an IWC movement to create its Automotive Skeleton.
It was also refreshing to see watches with a serious horological inclination being designed for a female customer. Of course there were the pretty, gem-clad, high jewellery watches that seem to suggest women spend a lot of time in enchanted forests and merely concern themselves with the aesthetic.
But SIHH 2015 revealed some real X-chromosome watchmaking. Audemars Piguet showed off a selection of handwound women’s watches within its Millenary collection. While undeniably bling, these watches put their watchmaking front and centre on the dial with the escapement swinging away for all to see. I tend to groan every time I see a new watch with a tiresome dial aperture revealing the balance wheel; it’s been done to death. But AP’s open dial approach offers more, revealing the balance wheel as well as a series of highly decorated bridges and even the occasional screwhead. The Millenary is a women’s watch that doesn’t feel the need to hide its micro-mechanics under a bushel.
Richard Mille’s stunning Tourbillon Fleur might undo my argument somewhat as its central premise revolves around the opening of a flower; not to mention the fact the 912,000 CHF (£664,200) watch is utterly smothered in diamonds. But the reveal of a flying tourbillon, which rises from the depths of the case every few minutes more than proves its worth.
While most of these trends point to more complication and intricacy there were also rumblings at the other end of the spectrum. Baume & Mercier successfully reinvigorated its Classima collection with some pleasingly light design touches. The Hampton too is a tribute to keeping things simple.
Montblanc boss Jerome Lambert continues to concentrate on value and followed up last year’s sub £10,000 perpetual calendar with a sub £5,000 annual calendar. The brand may have unveiled some gloriously complicated pieces in Geneva, but the crux of its collection was at the entry-level, pushing price and quality hard at every turn with simple, classic designs. The brand’s new entry-level handwound mechanical watch is a steal for £1,500 considering the amount of movement decoration visible through the crystal caseback. It’s a classic, traditional design that would not have seemed out of place at any point in the last sixty years.