Collectors Speak: Picks And Pans Of SIHH Week 2015
For the past five years, I’ve had the delightful experience of traveling to Switzerland with several of my closest friends to experience SIHH week.
Over this time, the structure of our week together has remained fairly constant: we start the weekend prior to SIHH with some introductory events, attend the show itself along with complementary Geneva-based activities for a few days, and then strike out into the countryside for some additional visits before finishing up with a no-holds-barred Friday night dinner at which we review our impressions of the week.
This is the story of that dinner for 2015.
While we always cover a variety of topics, the core of the discussion addresses four questions:
* What watch did you think was best of show at SIHH itself?
* What was the worst watch of the show?
* What current-production watch that you saw at any event this week would you buy if money were no object?
* What current-production watch did you see this week that would you buy with your own money?
The cast of characters
I will make no claims whatsoever that our merry band constitutes a representative sample of collectors everywhere, nor will I suggest that any of us comes to the party without substantial biases!
To set the scene, here’s the gang participating this year (with advance apologies to my pals for the fanciful nicknames):
* The Boss: lead partner of a venture capital firm; his collection is heavy on A. Lange & Söhne and top-drawer independents.
* The Patron: technology entrepreneur; early and active sponsor of independents such as Kari Voutilainen, Beat Haldimann, Ludovic Ballouard, and the McGonigle brothers; also owns landmark pieces from major manufacturers, including a number of skeletonized watches.
* The Young Gun: professional services firm partner; longtime A. Lange & Söhne, Patek Philippe, F.P. Journe, and independent enthusiast who also owns an outstanding collection of vintage watches.
* The Litigator: semi-retired big-time attorney; in addition to good coverage of the A. Lange & Söhne and independent catalogues, he is the most enthusiastic collector among us of Swatch Group brands, with particular emphasis on Breguet and Blancpain.
* The Traditionalist: surgeon and medical practice owner; likely the most devoted Patek Philippe collector in the group; also has an outstanding vintage Rolex collection along with important pieces from A. Lange & Söhne and the independents.
* The Wild Card: veterinarian and hospital owner who also happens to be my wife; no slouch when it comes to watches, with several pieces from Jaeger-LeCoultre, Parmigiani, and Blancpain, among others.
* The Scribe: that would be me; professional services firm CEO whose collection centers on high-end independents, with good additional representation from A. Lange & Söhne, Vacheron Constantin, and especially Jaeger-LeCoultre.
What we loved at SIHH
Best watch at SIHH itself? Including a few ties and honorable mentions (yes, we allow those) here were our picks:
* Two of us, myself included, went for the Naissance d’une Montre watch from the Le Garde Temps project sponsored by Greubel Forsey. The appeal of a watch made by hand under the tutelage of Philippe Dufour as part of a project whose goal is to perpetuate classic watchmaking techniques, with the assurance of absolute quality resulting from the Dufour/Greubel/Forsey trifecta, was simply too much for us to resist. (See The Le Garde Temps Project: A Horology Nerd’s Dream Come True for more information.)
* Greubel Forsey rang the bell two more times with its latest versions of the GMT; my wife opted for the black titanium version, and there was also one vote for the platinum/rose gold version. All that I can say is that these watches need to be seen in person as the visual contrasts are absolutely breathtaking.
* Speaking of ringing, there was one vote for the Audemars Piguet Concept RD1 minute repeater prototype; whether one is drawn to the aesthetics of the Royal Oak or not, the clarity and volume of the chimes were undeniable and we are all looking forward to seeing and hearing more.
* The Vacheron Constantin Malte Tourbillon Openworked was technically a 2014 introduction, but was available for viewing by us for the first time at this year’s show and was an absolutely worthy selection on the part of our skeleton specialist. Our group had kind things in general to say about Vacheron Constantin’s SIHH performance this year – good work!
* The Jaeger-LeCoultre Sphérotourbillon Moon caught the eye of our young gun with its combination of unique oscillating tourbillon and moon display at the center of the main time subdial, the latter reminiscent of last year’s updated A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase. (See SIHH 2015 Photo Essay: Jaeger-LeCoultre for more information on the Sphérotourbillon.)
* A. Lange & Söhne did feature in the top choices, but perhaps in an unexpected way, with one vote for the re-introduced Datograph Perpetual in white gold with anthracite dial; more on this below.
* Honorable mentions at SIHH went to two Cartier watches, the Crash Skeleton and Grand Complication, and to two from A. Lange & Söhne, the updated Saxonia Dual Time and Zeitwerk Minute Repeater. The Zeitwerk is a technical marvel, to be sure; fingers crossed that by the time of commercial release the sound of its chimes is equally brilliant.
What we would buy with money not being an object
The “money no object” choices for any current-production watches seen during the week tilted even more strongly toward Greubel Forsey than our SIHH best of show picks, with no fewer than four members opting for one or the other of the GMT variants and yours truly choosing the Quantième Perpetual that adorned Stephen Forsey’s wrist during our meeting with him.
We had to disqualify one “money no object” choice for not being a current production watch (for the record, that was the A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph in Honey Gold), and my wife played a true wild card with her choice of the Van Cleef & Arpels Carpe Koï; perhaps not much from a horological standpoint with its quartz movement, but jaw-droppingly stunning in its jeweled splendor in both conception and execution.
One strong honorable mention for spending hypothetical money was the Fonderie 47 Inversion Principle, introduced to us at the Wednesday evening independents’ dinner. For more on this, please see Behind The Lens: Fonderie 47 Inversion Principle and Forget Ploughs To Ploughshares: Fonderie 47 Transforms AK-47s Into Haute Horlogerie.
What we disliked at SIHH
Hey, they can’t all be winners, right? One important way that we learn from each other as collectors is to talk (and argue) about pieces that we disliked and understand others’ rationales. The group’s choices, along with a few dissenting thoughts from me:
* Cartier: we love what this brand has been doing, and two of its watches were honorable mentions on our best-of-show list this year. Many of its other watches on display, including the new Clé line and the unique jeweled pieces, were really attractive. But we had to ask what the brand was thinking with that Ballon Bleu Vibrating Diamond watch, with its seizure-inducing shaking points of light. Two votes for worst of show went to this one.
* Richard Mille: I’ll declare right now that I liked the RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur with its retracting petals and brilliant colors. Apparently, however, I was the only one in our group so inclined, and two of our number pronounced it the worst watch of SIHH 2015 (too big, too gaudy). (For more information on this watch, see SIHH 2015 Photo Essay: Richard Mille.)
* IWC: for the second year running, IWC fared poorly with our group, with “worst” honors bestowed by three of our members on the new Portofino watches, the Digital Date/Month Perpetual and “the entire line,” respectively. I rather fancied the 75th Anniversary Portugieser Eight Days Hand Wound and would go as far as to say that I am a potential buyer, but that put me on the fringes of group opinion once again.
* Panerai: it’s not that we dislike big watches or re-creations of historical pieces per se, but one member called out the Mare Nostrum Titanio as his least favorite watch of the show: a ginormous 52 mm “naval chronograph” with limited water resistance and a largely unreadable chronograph minute indication.
* A. Lange & Söhne: Remember that vote for the white gold Datograph Perpetual as best of show? The same member of the group also voted it worst of show (yes, we allow that, too). Best, because he owns the same watch in white gold from its original production run and justly views it as one of Lange’s masterworks; worst because rather than creating a new-generation Datograph Perpetual based on the updated Up/Down Datograph, Lange simply replaced a few of the applied Roman numerals on the dial with baton markers and announced it as a “new” watch.
What we would buy with our own money
So let’s get down to it: what did we see, at the show or elsewhere, that we would actually buy? I should note that our record for following through on these Friday proclamations over the years has been pretty good, including watches as diverse as the De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk, F.P. Journe T30 Anniversary Tourbillon, Jaeger-LeCoultre Tribute to Reverso 1931, and the Vianney Halter Antiqua, among others.
We’ll see how we do on this year’s set, but our list included the following:
* F.P. Journe Octa Lune, as well as the F.P. Journe Elégante.
* Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon. (See Copernicus, Alignment Shift, And The Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon: A Nerd Story for more information on this.)
* Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down. (See When Confusion Paves The Way To Awe: The Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down for more information on this watch.)
* Andreas Strehler Sauterelle à Lune Perpétuelle. (See Blood Moons, Lunar Tetrads, And The Andreas Strehler Sauterelle À Lune Perpétuelle for more information.)
* De Bethune DB28ST dead-seconds tourbillon.
* Vianney Halter Antiqua (which is technically still in production and was seen at an event during the week).
A bit more off the beaten track, we also cited:
* Several pre-introduction items that were shown to us as collectors under strict embargo (stay tuned, as many of these are just killer).
* The MAD Gallery’s Frank Buchwald Nixie Clock (in fact, the first on the list to fall as it has already been ordered by one of our gang and a second may join in on the fun).
Several hours, seven courses, and several bottles of wine after convening for dinner we brought our 2015 Geneva week to a close. Hope you enjoyed being a fly on the wall for our frank and sometimes-contentious discussion!