29 Horological Happenings Of 2013
Before we get inextricably drawn into the horological maelstrom of 2014, let’s take a few minutes to reflect on a few highlights of the year that was.
As the first big watch show of the year, the SIHH usually sets the mood for the following 12 months, and 2013 was no exception. Though bereft of Girard-Perregaux and partner brand JeanRichard, which were bought by the Kering group and thus exhibited later at Baselworld, it was an excellent show with a great number of interesting new releases.
A. Lange & Söhne showed a prototype of its Grand Complication to select media and retailers, while Audemars Piguet launched the Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication in honor of the Offshore model’s twentieth anniversary; Roger Dubuis went mystical with Camelot-themed pieces; Jaeger-LeCoultre spun 360° with the Gyrotourbillon 3; Greubel Forsey presented its first non-tourbillon model in the Double Balancier 35°; Richard Mille once again threw visitors into shock, this time with the bright green RM059 Johan Blake; and Cartier mesmerized with its Rotonde Tourbillon Mysterieux – which went on to become the talk of the town throughout 2013, culminating in a special exhibition held in Paris’ Grand Palais at the end of the year.
And those were just to name a few of the incredible new timepieces on show.
There was no between-the-fairs lull in 2013 as an ever increasing number of brands highlighted interesting topics and timepieces pre-Baselworld. Ulysse Nardin presented the world’s first music box in a wristwatch: the Stranger. Jaeger-LeCoultre and Hermès teamed up to co-release a limited-edition Atmos sheathed in crystal. But perhaps most breathtaking of all was a big announcement from a little-known brand: Louis Moinet stunned the watch world and rewrote horological history books with the announcement of the re-emergence of Moinet’s original compteur de tierces, which predates Nicolas Rieussec’s chronograph by five years. Until this point, Rieussec was thought to be the inventor of this complication.
After being early in 2012, Baselworld was late in 2013 to allow as much time as possible to reconstruct the halls and cover the main square. And it was all very well worthwhile. Many brands, especially the smaller ones, were finding their way (and still are) around the redeveloped halls. The A.H.C.I. moved from its traditional location in Hall 5 to its new home in Hall 2, and quite a few of the independents followed, though the Palace Hall remained an independent hotbed. Hall 1 has become bigger and better than ever, and the larger space has translated to larger stands, with some of the brands now climbing vertically across three levels.
Highlights, and there were so many that it’s incredibly difficult (and rather unfair) to name just a few, included the Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement, which also took the prestigious Aiguille d’Or prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève later in the year; the fluid-filled Ressence Type 3 and the Romain Gauthier Logical One were crowd favorites, both picking up important prizes at the Geneva Grand Prix.
Boutique brand Antoine Martin wowed a technically-minded public with the Slow Runner, while reborn Arnold & Son introduced the visually stunning Time Pyramid and Urban Jürgensen displayed an unusual kind of enamel with unheard-of depth. Breguet introduced a host of interesting and important new timepieces such as the Classique Chronométrie 7727, which uniquely employs magnetism to keep its balance staff pivots in place, while Swatch Group sister brands Blancpain combined a flying tourbillon with Vincent Calabrese’s ingenious karussel in one watch and Omega courageously debuted a black ceramic Speedmaster called Dark Side of the Moon.
While Patek Philippe seemed to have shown less interest in a high-profile new booth – remaining the only brand in Hall 1 to exhibit at the fair with its previous booth – or in presenting wow-effect watches, the traditional Genevan brand did hold a dedicated event in May to introduce the Reference 6002G Sky Moon Tourbillon, which places a distinct focus on rare handcrafts in addition to highlighting its incredible complexity. Certainly both elements foreshadow happenings destined for the brand’s 175th anniversary taking place in 2014.
Vianney Halter’s Deep Space tourbillon blasted off in June, reminding us all just how far out of the box this crazy Frenchman thinks compared to the rest of us on planet earth. In a surprise move, Jérôme Lambert became CEO of Montblanc after a decade leading Jaeger-LeCoultre. Bremont introduced the Codebreaker, the English brand’s second clever, history-incorporating limited edition after 2012’s Victory model.
Urwerk launched the groundbreaking EMC in September. This electro-mechanical hybrid comes with its own high-precision timer and an adjustment screw that allows its owner to tweak the timing to suit their lifestyle. In the same month, Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrated 180 years of existence with an elegant event in Venice, taking place alongside the Venice Film Festival, which the brand sponsors.
The first Hour Glass pop-up in Singapore – Super Machines and Horological Heroes – successfully featured rare limited editions such as the exquisitely engraved Imperial Fountain by De Bethune. Hot on its heels, Watches & Wonders became the first SIHH-style exhibition organized by the FHH in Asia. One of the main launches there was the deliciously complicated Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Rattrapante.
The Salon Internacional de Alta Relojería (SIAR) in Mexico held a novel Sotheby’s auction of a unique Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle World Time, featuring a dial enameled in the colors of the Mexican flag, while Swatch’s Sistem51 took home the top prize of the fair.
November heralded fantastically successful local fairs in SalonQP in London and Munichtime in Munich. Belles Montres in Paris was more subdued, though, with many brands reportedly skipping a year while the new owners settle in. This didn’t hamper the fall round of Geneva auctions, which set record upon record. Additionally, the FHH awarded its annual Men of Talent and Passion for the second time, with Walter Lange of A. Lange & Söhne and Jean-Marc Wiederrecht of Agenhor taking home these special jury-chosen prizes. Chopard surprisingly announced a new brand named for famed historical chronometer maker Ferdinand Berthoud.
The lucky thirteenth edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, whose extended 23-person jury − which surprisingly included a couple of celebrities this year, as well as yours truly − offered up a few interesting revelations in addition to Girard-Perregaux taking home the Aiguille d’Or: Habring2 won its second award in a row, this time for the Jumping Second Pilot; Vianney Halter was awarded the Innovation Prize for the Deep Space Tourbillon; Philippe Dufour gratefully accepted the Special Jury Prize; Tudor received the inaugural Revival Prize; and Zenith and Chopard were also premiered for the second year in a row.
While 2013 was a great year in watchmaking, 2014 is shaping up to be even better, so please stay tuned!