Collectors Speak: Picks And Pans Of SIHH Week 2016
I can’t believe it’s true, but it’s already been six consecutive years that 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; then we attend the show itself along with complementary Geneva-based activities for a few days; and then we 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. (For my report on our 2015 dinner, see Collectors Speak: Picks And Pans Of SIHH Week 2015).
As usual, our discussion centered around four questions, which were focused more tightly on SIHH itself this year due to the inclusion of nine independent watchmakers.
- What watch did you think was best of show at SIHH?
- What was the worst watch of the show?
- What watch displayed at the show would you buy if money were no object?
- What watch did you see on display that would you buy with your own money?
Best of show
This section will be a short one, as four of the five of us who stated a preference selected the same watch: MB&F’s fantastic Legacy Machine Perpetual. The entire MB&F team should be proud of this one as it has been both a commercial success and a rare “crossover” piece that seems to appeal both to MB&F loyalists and more traditional collectors.
I was the outlier: my pick was the De Bethune DB25 World Traveller, which I thought looked great on the wrist and was extremely functional while at the same time being faithful to De Bethune’s design codes such as the use of a sphere as an indication (in this case, for day and night rather than for the moon phase as in prior De Bethune watches).
In all honesty, I might have picked the MB&F as well had I not already seen it in November 2015 and hence characterized it as a bit less of an “SIHH” watch than others did.
For every like, there is a dislike
The reason that there is more than one type of watch is that tastes differ! One thing that I learned by listening to our group’s likes and dislikes this year is that our tastes do not tend to the bleeding edge, even though our collections focus heavily on independent pieces and include avant-garde styling exercises such as Vianney Halter’s Deep Space Tourbillon and Antiqua models, Romain Gauthier’s Logical One, and Greubel Forsey’s Invention Pieces 1 and 2.
“Out there” pieces from the 2016 SIHH that won’t be feeling the love from our traveling team include one that isn’t even expected to be offered to the market until 2018: the Parmigiani Senfine Concept Watch with its grasshopper-style escapement and claimed 45-day power reserve.
While we applauded IWC’s move to downsize most of the offerings in its Pilot lines, two of us were sufficiently dismayed with the size of the new Big Pilot Heritage Watch 55 mm to tip it as worst of show.
I was one of two group members scratching our heads at the Richard Mille RM 011 Red TPT Quartz watch, which I’m sure will sell to someone, but certainly not to me.
Richard Mille’s featured watch of the show, the million-dollar RM 50-01 ACJ Tourbillon Airbus, was so difficult to understand from a styling perspective that its mention as a “worst of” candidate just led to bewildered head-shaking from around the table.
Closing out this category for our group were the Urwerk UR-105TA T-Rex (which I have to confess I rather liked), through to the not-new the Christophe Claret Poker (which “plays” Texas Hold ҆Em), and Piaget’s electro-mechanical Emperador Coussin XL 700P.
What would we buy with your money?
The “money no object” watches were a varied lot. My pick (and the runner-up of one other member) was the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon with its stunning two-axis tourbillon that includes an inner cage spinning once every twelve seconds. Philippe Bonay, head of JLC North America, characterized the 12-second interval to us as “sick,” and I agree!
A. Lange & Söhne figured in the “money no object” mix, both with its flagship Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon and with the new white gold version of the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, the latest incarnation of one of the most important Lange watches of recent years.
Greubel Forsey, another frequent favorite within our group, didn’t receive any selections for its new “entry-level” Signature 1, but received one pick for the splendid Double Balancier à Différential with its striking aesthetics and inventive new differential connecting the two escapements.
Another Greubel Forsey-related project, the Naissance d’une Montre watch that is now “95 percent complete” according to project co-leader Philippe Dufour and watchmaker Michel Boulanger, was the choice of one of our members.
Our visit with Van Cleef & Arpels is always a highlight, and this year was no exception. Among the many fine new offerings there, my wife’s pick as her “money no object” piece was the feathered-dial Lady Arpels Oiseaux Enchantés.
Finally, our big-hearted “big guy” revealed his poetic side with his choice of the De Bethune Dream Watch 5 blued meteorite-encased unique piece.
Opening our own wallets
In 2015, we once again followed through on buying prior years’ favorite watches with our own money. Incoming 2015 pieces from prior lists included the Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down, the F.P. Journe Elégante, Roman Gauthier’s Logical One, MB&F Nixie Machine, and several pre-owned pieces on our lists of “watches we would steal” from other members in the group if allowed (another part of our Friday traditions).
Our “own money” list for 2016 starts with the Vacheron Constantin Cornes de Vache 1955 Chronograph selected by two of us, including me.
Vacheron Constantin also found another prospective buyer in the group for its new Overseas time-only watch with blue dial. I really liked the entire new Overseas line, in particular the ultra-thins based on the legendary 1120 movement.
While I found the dial of the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Jumping Seconds a bit plain for my tastes, I was clearly the outlier as two members of the group selected it as their first choices and another cited it as a strong runner-up.
For my tastes, the striking Lange 1 Lumen Moonphase was the SIHH piece I’d buy after the Vacheron Constantin Overseas, and I think it perhaps was lost a bit in the excitement over the other new offerings from A. Lange & Söhne this year.
Finally, a watch that I suspect may already be on the way home with its admirer: the Kari Voutilainen Vingt-8 “all black” with black dial and black gold movement treatment.
Are rumors of its acquisition true? Tune in for next year’s report and get the final word!
Also published on Medium.