Watchmaking’s new sensible mode is very real, but only extends so far; that’s the message received from the last few days at the SIHH. There has been some very straightforward and on-message launches from fine watchmaking maisons such Replica Audemars Piguet, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget and even Greubel Forsey. But not all the exhibitors at what is the world’s most up-market trade fair had read the memo: Richard Mille’s precious-little-change-from-a-million-pounds watch seemed almost defiantly rebellious.
Greubel Forsey’s main launch was a Grande Sonnerie that’s been 10 years in the making and has a price tag to match, but the house also showed a new version of the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision, the brand’s “entry-level” swiss imitation watches uk that happens to be the cleanest, and to my eyes most pleasing, design in a variety of dial colours and a platinum case.
€300,000 might not be accessible in any real sense, but, unlike the Grande Sonnerie, the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision is much more a wristwatch than a portable exhibition of horological wonders; it hides its incredible levels of finish and sophistication in plain sight.
Fake Cartier has had a great success with the Drive de Cartier and while it too had far more costly wonders on show, the ultra-slim versions of the Drive de Cartier were, deservedly, the stars of the house’s show. The new watches, in pink and white gold versions will be £12,500 and £13,400 respectively and give the collection a slightly dressier alternative that still evokes the casually automotive feel that the initial collection captured.
Over at Piaget Replica, the story was 60 years of the Altiplano, the ultra-thin watch that has been a staple of the collection almost throughout that time. Given dashes of colour and a stone dial, the Altiplano is still pure simplicity and a rebuke to anyone that thinks attaining such minimalism is easy. That said, I must confess to being more taken by the vintage tiger’s-eye and malachite versions that Piaget also had on show.
Sensible doesn’t mean dowdy though as an ultra-thin version of replica Audemars Piguet’s yellow gold, blue dial, Royal Oak fully demonstrated. The original sports-luxe watch still sets the standard. The one radical intervention that Audemars has made is the “frosted gold” treatment developed with Florentine jeweller, Carolina Bucci. Initially available in smaller sizes, AP’s CEO was spotted wearing a 41mm version
Exotic materials are the stand-out story and will get more coverage here over the next few weeks, but, as an earnest of things to come, copy Richard Mille’s just sub-£1 million RM50-03 weighs just under 40 grams, a lightness that’s possible, according to the brand, thanks to the use of the wonder material graphene, in the case material and strap. It isn’t really clear what graphene adds to the equation, but I suspect that this is a prelude to using the material for internal components. Time will tell.