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VOICES FROM CHINA - Watches & Wonders 2015: a mini-SIHH for Greater Asia

November 2015


Here at the Hong Kong exhibition centre, the third edition of Watches & Wonders is already being referred to as a “mini-SIHH” – a tongue-in- cheek remark since it is the largest de luxe watchmaking exhibition in Asia. Here, we take a look at the top complications in a market that is increasingly... complicated!

The creation of Watches & Wonders in 2013 was a response to the “spectacular growth of the Asian markets,” in the words of organiser and CEO of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie Fabienne Lupo. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, exports by Swiss watchmakers muscled up, by 22.2%, 19.4% and 11% respectively. After that however, exports stagnated and in 2015, deflated. According to the FHH, Asia (50.4% of world sales) fell 9.5% between January and September. Worse than that, in Hong Kong, by far the world’s largest market for Swiss watchmaking goods, sales tumbled 20.5% from January to the end of September 2015! So: can we really sense the wind of change in the chic aisles of the 2015 edition, which took place from 30 September to 3 October? Yes – starting with Audemars Piguet, conspicuous by its absence!

Its CEO François-Henry Bennahmias stated to the Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post: “At first we weren’t intending to launch innovations but certain brands made a point of it, and from then on all participants have had to showcase an innovation.” It may or may not be a pretext, but the brand from Le Brassus is independent and can change strategy without having to obey directives from the Richemont Group. Note that Richard Mille, another independent brand, is still taking an active role in Watches & Wonders with special editions for Asia. And since the twelve participating brands have numerous innovations between them, it’s hard to imagine the end of this already muchhyped event in this region of the world. Here is our review of the innovations of each brand, in alphabetical order.

 A. LANGE & SÖHNE

1815 200TH ANNIVERSARY F. A. LANGE BY A. LANGE SÖHNE
1815 200TH ANNIVERSARY F. A. LANGE BY A. LANGE SÖHNE

This is the second tribute of the year in honour of the 200th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, with a solid-silver variant of the new 1815 200th Anniversary F. A. Lange watch. The artisanal decoration on its textured silver-plating is reminiscent of the silver-plated dials of the historical observation watches and marine chronometers produced by this Saxonybased manufacture. The L051.1 hand-wound calibre made up of 188 parts has a power reserve of 55 hours. Its principal distinguishing features include a three-quarter plate in untreated nickel silver, a hand-engraved balance cock, the classic screw balance, high-precision resetting with a lateral set screw and a swan’s neck spring, as well as five gold chatons held in place by thermally blued steel screws. The 40mm case in honey gold is engraved with a number from 001/200 to 200/200, denoting the limited edition of the 1815 200th Anniversary F. A. Lange. A. Lange & Söhne

 BAUME & MERCIER

PROMESSE JADE BY BAUME & MERCIER
PROMESSE JADE BY BAUME & MERCIER

Paying tribute to Asian culture and to women, Baume & Mercier unveils a watch in jade and diamonds with the evocative name of Promesse Jade. In Asia, ancient legend has it that jade is much more than a talisman, as any woman who wears this exquisite, green-tinted stone with its beneficent aura is protected for life. But jade is also an imperial symbol of ancestral China, synonymous with good fortune and family inheritance handed down through generations. Here, this ancient stone is metamorphosed into an oval bezel made all the more dazzling by 61 diamonds – making this an exceptional and ultra-confidential watch, since Promesse from Baume & Mercier runs to just 8 items! The back of the case is engraved with the words “Limited Edition – One out of 8”. Its unconventional outline stems from its oval bezel nestling in a 34mm round case, evocative of the ripple that a droplet of water might have left on the silvercoloured dial, adorned with Roman numerals and indices set with eight diamonds. Powered by a high-quality quartz Swiss movement and fitted with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, Promesse Jade is secured to the wrist by a glossy white alligator strap. Baume & Mercier

 CARTIER

CLÉ DE CARTIER MYSTERIOUS HOURS WATCH BY CARTIER
CLÉ DE CARTIER MYSTERIOUS HOURS WATCH BY CARTIER

Mysterious Hours, an idea dating from 1912 and inspired by a French illusionist, weds another watchmaking symbol from Cartier, Clé de Cartier, with a 9981 MC calibre. The conjugation of these two has produced this watch, the two hands of which gravitate completely unattached. Besides its invisible complication, the dial is adorned with Roman numerals in blue, echoing the sapphire set into the crown. The Roman numerals, railtrack minute scale and sword-shaped hands are all part of Cartier’s Haute Horlogerie collections code. Cartier

  IWC

PORTOFINO HAND-WOUND MONOPUSHER BY IWC
PORTOFINO HAND-WOUND MONOPUSHER BY IWC

The discreet Portofino collection from  IWC Schaffhausen now boasts a second chronograph, the new Portofino Hand-Wound Monopusher, available in white or red gold. The slight protrusion on the crown is the only indication of its sophisticated user-friendly mechanism. The Monopusher is distinct from conventional chronographs thanks precisely to this single push-button stopwatch that lets you measure time up to 60 minutes. To start, stop or reset the chronograph, all you have to do is press this single, multifunctional pushbutton several times. At the third push, the chronograph hands return to zero. The watch’s appearance also benefits: despite its additional function, it remains a remarkably understated timekeeper. Its 59360 calibre is derived from the high-performing 59000 movement family and has a power reserve of 192 hours – that’s eight days of accuracy when completely rewound. The energy remaining is shown by the power reserve indicator between 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock on the dial. The subdial at 12 o’clock shows the number of minutes recorded by the chronograph, while the central hand shows the seconds. With the small-seconds subdial at 6 o’clock and the date at 3 o’clock, the dial is harmoniously proportioned. The reverse side is no less remarkable, with a sapphire crystal back that allows you to observe at leisure the manufacture movement decorated with Geneva striping chronograph mechanism. IWC

 JAEGER-LECOULTRE

GEOPHYSIC TRUE SECOND BY JAEGER-LECOULTRE
GEOPHYSIC TRUE SECOND BY JAEGER-LECOULTRE

Two innovations have joined the legendary Geophysic line from Jaeger-LeCoultre: True Second and Universal Time. The case of the Geophysic True Second stands apart thanks to its ideal case diameter (39.6mm), its magnificent swordshaped hands and baton-style hour markers, as well as the horns which are detached from the case, creating a delicate stylistic break. The screwed back, like that on the 1958 model, ensures greater water-resistance. But what drives it? The 770 self-winding calibre is extraordinarily precise. Remember that the 770 and 772 calibres mobilised the best engineers of the manufacture’s Research and Development centre for eight years, resulting in innovations such as the non-circular balance wheel (called the “Gyrolab”) aimed at reducing friction ... with the air! This precision is also expressed in the concept of the “true second”. This means that the second hand advances by “beating the second”, that is, it jumps ahead every second – not the norm for a mechanical movement – and does so without upsetting the functioning of the watch. And for regular travellers it also means easy, swift adjustment when on the road. As for the Geophysic Universal Time, this displays the 772 calibre but, above all, a splendid map of the world, an invitation to travel. The sea is represented by lacquered shades of blue, while the engraved continents have a sunburst finish. The world map, which you never tire of contemplating, is fixed and the hour markers allow you to read the time in 24 time zones simultaneously thanks to a mobile disc. In the interest of absolute simplicity, the time is set using the crown, not a push-button. Once it is set to universal time, there is no further need to adjust it as you travel the globe – all you have to do is advance or turn back the hour hand independently of the minutes and seconds, without sacrificing accuracy... Jaeger-LeCoultre

 MONTBLANC

VILLERET COLLECTION TOURBILLON CYLINDRIQUE NIGHTSKY GEOSPHÈRES LIMITED EDITION BY MONTBLANC
VILLERET COLLECTION TOURBILLON CYLINDRIQUE NIGHTSKY GEOSPHÈRES LIMITED EDITION BY MONTBLANC

Three innovations at Montblanc, with a GMT watch, a perpetual calendar and a cylindrical tourbillon. The first is called Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time Vasco de Gama Limited Edition 238 and has its own manufacture calibre. With this watch Montblanc, like other brands of the Richemont Group, is also entering the domain of the decorative arts but without betraying its own style, with some exquisitely small parts. The second is called Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Sapphire, a dazzling creation that marries classic style with a sapphire crystal dial that exposes the inner workings. Incidentally, what time is it? Not easy to decipher... The third innovation is the Montblanc Villeret Collection Tourbillon Cylindrique NightSky Geosphères Limited Edition... for want of a shorter name. But this watch is as complex as its name is long! And despite its imposing size (47mm in diameter), it is nevertheless outstandingly beautiful. Its manual MB M68.40 calibre powers a triple time zone, a local time display and a power reserve indicator symbolised by a compass rose at 6 o’clock. As for the two immobile globes, they reproduce the world’s 24 time zones of the northern and southern hemispheres, and the passage from day to night. The detail on the planets is so fine you can even see the lines of latitude and longitude. Montblanc

 PANERAI

RADIOMIR 1940 BY PANERAI
RADIOMIR 1940 BY PANERAI

The timeless Italian design and sophisticated technical solutions from the new manufacture at Neuchâtel make Radiomir 1940 the new star in the  Panerai firmament. This 42mm watch is reminiscent of Panerai’s historical debut, when the cushion case of the first Radiomir (1936) became the imposing Luminor 1950 case with the emblematic crown protector. Its shape was a response to the needs of the Italian navy, which wanted to supply its commandos with a water-resistant, extremely robust watch with a reliable mechanism and a perfectly legible dial even in the dark and underwater. On board is the P.1000 calibre, every piece of which is made in  Panerai’s Neuchâtel manufacture, and vaunted for its exemplary reliability and robustness, not forgetting a power reserve of 3 days thanks to its two series-made barrels. Panerai

 PIAGET

“SECRETS AND LIGHTS - A MYTHICAL JOURNEY BY PIAGET”
“SECRETS AND LIGHTS - A MYTHICAL JOURNEY BY PIAGET”

Though we mentioned the decorative arts earlier in relation to Montblanc, they remain the great speciality of Piaget. And its innovations at Hong Kong were so numerous that we shall restrict ourselves to three. The first is “Secrets & Lights – A Mythical Journey by Piaget”, an ode to the play of light and the history of the Silk Road. Inspired by two legendary cities, Venice and Samarkand (“queen of the Earth”), both places offered the manufacture’s workshops a remarkable territory for expression. It is the embodiment of a climax of creative activity. The second is the Emperador Coussin world map, the dial of which uses the colour of the enamel and intaglio engraving to create a poetical marriage between earth and sky. The third (ref. G0A40605) represents the dome of the Ulugh Beg observatory, the starry sky over which is captured in cloisonné enamel. Outlined using more than one metre of gold wire by the independent enameller Anita Porchet, the constellations lead us into a cosmos of unbelievable precision, evocative of astronomical charts. Here, the manufacture wished to pay tribute to the work of the numerous scientists who came to study the astrolabe and the giant sextant in the observatory, built in 1429. Thanks to them, more than 1,108 stars were catalogued, and their work is still a reference for astronomers today. Piaget

 RICHARD MILLE

RM022 AERODYNE DUAL TIME ZONE BY RICHARD MILLE
RM022 AERODYNE DUAL TIME ZONE BY RICHARD MILLE

Its honeycomb structure catapulted it to the heights of horological innovation in 2001. Today, the RM022 Aerodyne Dual Time Zone in carbon nanofibre is wedded to red gold for an “Asia Edition”. It too features the RM022 manuallywound, tourbillon calibre offering a power reserve of 70 hours (index between 11 o’clock and 12 o’clock). This marriage of high-tech materials and red gold is visually very successful. Richard Mille

 ROGER DUBUIS

EXCALIBUR SPIDER POCKET TIME INSTRUMENT BY ROGER DUBUIS
EXCALIBUR SPIDER POCKET TIME INSTRUMENT BY ROGER DUBUIS

At Roger Dubuis, a manufacture specialising in skeleton movements and, it would seem, the major movement manufacturer of the Richemont Group, they are no strangers to extravagance! And they prove it once again here at Hong Kong with the world premiere of the Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument, a futuristic-looking pocket watch with a skeleton design. Its pioneering design has undeniable fascination; it could have come from another planet, imbued with supernatural functions. And yet this distillation of horological know-how fits easily into the palm of your hand, measuring just 60mm in diameter and 196mm thick. But there is nothing supernatural about the action of its RD101 calibre, with its four spiral balance wheels which allow the movement to work at the exceptional frequency of 16Hz, ensuring extreme precision. Roger Dubuis

 VACHERON CONSTANTIN

LES HISTORIQUES CORNES DE VACHES 1955 BY VACHERON CONSTANTIN
LES HISTORIQUES CORNES DE VACHES 1955 BY VACHERON CONSTANTIN

Did someone mention leaving the best till last? Whatever the case, the brand is out to please its aficionados with Les Historiques Cornes de Vaches 1955, which is powered by a 1142 hand-wound calibre housed in a 38.5mm-diameter platinum case. Baptised ‘Cornes de Vache’ in 1955 because of its distinctive cow-horn-shaped lugs, this timekeeper embodies the singular marriage of bold design and absolute technicality. Born in the effervescent post-war years, that chronograph – melding strict classicism and fanciful design – is revisited here in the spirit of the times. Just 36 items with this reference were made between 1956 and 1966 (26 in yellow gold, 8 in red gold and just two in platinum). This exclusively produced timepiece bearing the Geneva Hallmark enriches an exceptional collection dedicated to connoisseurs which brings the legendary creations of Vacheron Constantin back to life.

A SCHOOL FOR LOVERS OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS…
But what of Van Cleef & Arpels? Its great innovation is the opening of its travelling “school” in Hong Kong in 2014, which in 2015 posted a successful bottom line after its first year. Inaugurated in Paris and open to the general public, L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels offers anyone and everyone the key to understanding arts and crafts, art history and the techniques of watchmaking and jewellery-making. Anything but a marketing gimmick, these travelling courses are a response to the general public’s thirst to know more about this world apart. Van Cleef & Arpels was well-placed to assuage that thirst. In Asia, and in China especially, the Paris-based brand rapidly soared to a pinnacle of popularity thanks to the Pont des Amoureux watch. The couple meeting on a bridge thanks to the magic of time struck a romantic chord in China. More at: hk.lecolevancleefarpels.com

Source: Europa Star November 2015 Magazine Issue