Analog/Shift Founder James Lamdin shares his insider opinion of the most exciting releases announced at SIHH 2018.
SIHH 2018 has just wrapped, marking the start of the horological calendar for the coming year and my fifth visit to the trade show in as many years.
While anyone who knows me (or has even met me, once, for two minutes) will attest, vintage everything is my raison d’ être in life. But, my love of horology extends beyond old wristwatches, and I’m always excited to see what’s fresh and new. SIHH is a rather exclusive event, and I’m honored to have had boots on the ground these past five years. Technically speaking, I’ve been invited as media, but I tend to approach my coverage as an enthusiast first. After all, its hard to be objective when you love the things you’re reporting on!
So without further ado, here are my top seven favorite takeaways (in no particular order) from this year’s SIHH:
1. IWC Portugieser Chronograph Edition “150 Years” ($7,150)
The big news out of Schaffhausen this year is IWC’s 150th Jubilee celebration, which is being commemorated with a collection of timepieces across the price spectrum, all which feature new white and blue colorways, stunning lacquer dials and culminate with a flagship novelty in the form of the terribly cool Pallweber digital. My personal favorite from the collection, however, is probably the one that will slide under the radar of most: the newest version of Reference 3714 Portuguese Chronograph.
The 3714 has been in continual production since its introduction 20 years ago and is perhaps the most classically proportioned and iconic piece in the history of the Portuguese line. I have always had a soft spot for these beautiful chronographs, and I came very close to making one my first “big” purchase, nearly 15 years ago.
The Jubilee version, properly referred to as the Portugieser Chronograph Edition 150 Years, will be hitting retailers towards the end of this year. The new edition marks the first major revision to the 3714 series since its introduction, as it does away with the off the shelf movements that have been powering the model since its beginning and introduces an improved manufacture movement coined Calibre 69355. Based on the architecture of the Valjoux 7750, the Cal. 69355 introduces a column-wheel mechanism and a host of additional upgrades to increase accuracy and reliability, all while remaining at virtually the same price point as the outgoing model. This is the big winner in my book, and will breathe new life into a classic reference.
2. Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar ($21,600+)
On the heels of the wildly successful Triple Calendrier Historiques 1942 and 1948 models, Vacheron Constantin used SIHH 2018 as the launching point for their all new entry-level collection, dubbed FiftySix.
Consisting of three models — Self-Winding, Day-Date and Complete Calendar — the FiftySix collection is aimed squarely at capturing new buyers in the $12,000 – $35,000 range. Available in two metals (stainless steel and pink gold), these six new timepieces make a great statement and were, for all intents and purposes, the talk of the show amongst journalists, retailers and collectors alike. After all, its not every day that one of the Holy Trinity introduces an entirely new model range.
Personally, I think the FiftySix collection will prove to be a great success for VC, as they offer unique looks and horological pedigree at price points more easily digested by mere mortals than most of their current offerings. I was particularly taken with the Complete Calendar model, which — although it slates in at the top end of the collection — rings in at $21,600 in steel ($35,800 in pink gold). That’s a lot of watch for a great price — exactly the target Vacheron was aiming for.
3. A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Homage To Walter Lange 9 (ApRx. $47,000)
My love for everything Lange probably jades my journalistic integrity a bit — I’m fond of saying that there isn’t a single reference in their collection I wouldn’t happily own — and their 2018 introductions prove no exception.
The big news this year is their incredible new Triple-Split, and it is (as you’d expect) nothing short of magnificent. But for those of us without large wrists (and even larger bank accounts), it will remain squarely in the category of “If Only . . . ”
For me, the better takeaway is the new 1815 Homage to Walter Lange. Teased last month before the show, this new addition to the 1815 collection pays tribute to the man that resurrected the storied brand after the fall of the Berlin Wall as a limited edition in three metals (18K yellow, pink and white gold). (There is also a piece uniquely made in steel which we won’t get into here.) In the metal, the Homage to Walter Lange proves every bit as fantastic as we expected.
The pieces feature a jumping seconds mechanism sure to please all the horology geeks, its signature 1815 looks that will please — well, everyone. As always, the back side of the watch highlights a beautifully finished in-house calibre (this time Cal. L1924, commemorating the year of Walter Lange’s birth), which proves to be nothing short of a visual feast for the eyes. For lovers of Lange’s movement architecture on its higher-end pieces (think Datograph, 1815 Chronograph, etc.), the Homage to Walter Lange doesn’t disappoint in the slightest, and at $47 thousand, is a bit more accessible to enthusiasts than some of the heavy hitters. This one falls squarely in the category of “Future Classic.”
4. Baume et Mercier Clifton Club Burt Munro Tribute Limited Edition ($3,750)
It is very easy to be swept away at SIHH in a flood of high-horology masterpieces and complicated jargon, resulting in coverage that skews towards the over-the-top releases. But to focus exclusively on the ultra-high-end novelties would be doing a disservice to some of the more grounded offerings.
While Baume et Mercier, Richemont Group’s entry-level brand, did introduce a new line of impressive mechanical pieces in the form of their new Baumatic collection, my favorite piece was the new Clifton Club Burt Munro Tribute Limited Edition chronograph. This piece pays tribute to legendary motorcycle racer and land-speed record-setting Burt Munro and his Munro Special Indian motorcycle, the stars of the 2005 film The World’s Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins as Burt Munro.
With nothing notable on the table as far as mechanical innovation, this latest Clifton Club Chronograph instead focuses on design and storytelling — two areas I favor. Great looks and a nod to the design cues of the famous motorcycle brand which made Munro famous make this a fun, affordable timepiece I can totally get behind.
5. Cartier Tank Cintrée ($20,400+)
Photo. c. Cartier
To say that Cartier had a stellar year as far as introductions go would be seriously underselling it.
Many of my colleagues agreed that Cartier was the star of the show, with a wide selection of new references ranging from a new Santos line to a magnificent collection of exquisite jewelry and fashion pieces, calling on the whimsy of yesteryear.
Undersold in their press presentation and associated marketing materials — but not to be missed — is their lovely new Cintrée collection. Calling on the deco-period design language of the 1920s and 1930s, the Cintrée features a long, narrow case design favored at the time, originally introduced a few decades after the more traditional Tank Louis Cartier (1917).
The new Cintrée takes specific design cues from a watch once belonging to Fred Astaire, featuring printed deco numerals at 12:00 and 6:00, and is being produced in yellow and pink gold as well as a very small, 100-piece run in platinum. All three versions use an in-house Calibre 8971 manual-winding movement, making the case slim and extremely comfortable to wear. For lovers of history and design, the new Cintrée is a perfectly executed homage to vintage dress watches, and would make the perfect “one” dress/tuxedo piece for those of us who more typically wear vintage sports watches day to day.
This is an absolutely brilliant tribute to a lesser-known Tank variant, and may very well be my single favorite piece from the show.
6. Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100 (APRX. $28,000)
The theme of Montblanc’s new collection is alpine adventure, a perhaps unlikely direction for a brand better known for their pens and exquisite leather goods, but the creative team behind Montblanc’s success, headed by Davide Cerrato, the man responsible for Tudor’s Heritage Collection, has brought the heat yet again, and made the whole execution seem effortless.
The 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100 is the halo product in a line of re-imagined timepieces designed for travel and exploration and stood out instantly in the Montblanc booth not only for its incredible Minerva-derived monopusher movement, but for its extremely green dial. As blue seemed to be the common dial theme across the other exhibiting brands, the gradient green utilized here (and fitted to a green alligator strap, natch) was a show-stopper.
Minerva’s movement architecture rivals the best in Swiss or German high horology, and generally gets my attention at SIHH, but, in this case, it is all about the dial and the exceptional mechanical element just backs up its wow-factor.
I guess, for Montblanc, it's easy being green.
7. Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox ($12,600)
Speaking frankly, the new Polaris collection from Jaeger-LeCoultre was somewhat divisive in its appeal amongst my colleagues attending SIHH.
There is no disputing the quality or craftsmanship that goes into a JLC — they are, in my opinion, perhaps the single-most impressive large-scale operation in the industry. But from a design standpoint, the new collection wasn’t universally loved. This is most certainly due to the hallowed ground that the Polaris name occupies amongst vintage dive-watch enthusiasts — of which there are a lot.
I heard a lot of conflicting feedback — ranging from negative commentary on the seemingly complete dismissal of the brand’s Polaris legacy on one end to incredibly positive thoughts on the creation of an entirely new line built on the foundation of one of their greatest achievements on the other. I can see both points. With the new Polaris line, Jaeger has moved past the design language that made the vintage model so exceptional, which could indeed turn people off. On the other hand, progress isn’t achieved by standing still and continually re-issuing the same designs, and on that point I like the concept of evolving a collection around a groundbreaking model in their past.
After reflection, I find myself smack in the middle of the debate and realize that my preferred piece in the collection is the Polaris Memovox — the only piece in the range to feature the mechanical alarm that made the vintage Polaris a Polaris. While it does feature entirely fresh design language, I don’t see it so much as a slap in the face of tradition as a reimagining of the future. Furthermore, Jaeger-LeCoultre has embraced solid price points and immediately accessibly e-commerce, two things I believe will prove boons for the brand.
I can get down with all of that, and I’m really excited to see how the collection evolves into the future.
Honorable Mention: Audemars Piguet RD Concept Perpetual Calendar ($TBA)
OK, this one is cheating, but I can’t help myself.
Audemars Piguet continued to impress the audience with a new selection of Royal Oak models ranging from a new selection of Offshore Chronographs, Boutique-Edition divers (I have designated the purple Geneva-only version the “Grimace” — let’s see if it sticks!) and an incredibly appealing titanium/platinum two-tone variant of the jumbo model (Ref. 15202IP) that was seemingly everyone’s favorite derivative.
Frankly, I thought that the IP (as the kids are all calling it) would be my favorite as well (that dial!) but I found the high polish on the platinum bits to be a little too high polish, and it seemingly collects fingerprints just by looking at it. Bummer.
Of course, that wasn’t all the brand had to show. In addition to the new line of pieces available in retailers this coming year, AP teased their latest innovation concept — the Royal Oak RD2, an ultra ultra-thin perpetual calendar that left everyone hot and bothered, and for good reason.
By thinking outside the box and working diligently to redesign the movement architecture of their already not-at-all-fat Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, the wizards in Le Brassus have managed to create a perpetual-calendar design that is actually thinner than a Ref. 15202 “Jumbo,” without sacrificing the proportions that makes the Royal Oak a truly iconic design.
The party line from AP is that this is just a concept for the time being, but I’ll go ahead and place a substantial bet that this magnificent piece will be in production inside of a year.
And in the meantime I’ll absolutely be scheming on how to make one mine.
Photos c. Atom Moore