The R.E.M album of 1992, “Automatic for the people” remains an iconic record that many forty-somethings look back on with fondness. The name of the album was taken from “Weaver D’s”, a restaurant based in Athens, Georgia. The phrase means the clientele automatically receive whatever they want. For example, “does the burger come with fries?”, “Automatic!”.
Apart from the obvious link to the self-winding calibre found in this new timepiece from Genevan brand, Baume & Mercier, some may question my choice of (sub)title. However, all will be revealed in due course.
Recently launched at SIHH 2013, and earlier already introduced here on Monochrome, the model is available in four variants, silver or black dial, strap or bracelet. I am immediately drawn to the black dial version with brown alligator strap. It bestows warmth to its wearer. Moreover the presence of steel, black dial and brown leather means endless possibilities for coordinating the timepiece with your wardrobe.
The Clifton range takes inspiration from a former 1950s Baume & Mercier timepiece. Whilst classical it does not look unduly retro, thanks to the colour combination and the careful reinterpretation by the Baume & Mercier design team. Indeed, it confers a timeless quality and should retain appeal for decades to come.
The hour and minute hands are sword-shaped. They are elegant and refined. A subsidiary seconds display is located above 6 o’clock. The word, “Automatic”, spans the display, reminding the wearer that this is a self-winding movement. Even numbered hours are marked with Arabic numerals. Odd numbered hours are represented with applied lacrimal styled batons.
The chapter ring is detailed with strokes, alternating between long and short, representing 30 second steps. Every five minutes, Arabic numerals feature, presented in small, yet legible text. A date display is located at 3 o’clock. Through the aperture, the silver text, depicted on a black background, is readily legible and harmoniously blends with the rest of the dial.
Those readers who enjoy history, should note the name proudly proclaimed at the top of the dial, “Baume & Mercier”. The brand with the Greek letter, PhI, for its logo, has been in existence since 1830 and has been delivering fine timepieces ever since.
Whilst I adore the Clifton 1830 with its gorgeous 18-carat red gold case, I accept it may prove too costly for some. This automatic timepiece is presented in a stainless steel case, making it more affordable than its ermine clad, older brother.
The combination of stainless steel with a black dial is further enhanced with the judicious use of satin and polished surfaces. The majority of surfaces feature a satin-brushed finish. However, the bevelled edge of the caseband is highly polished, as is the crown and the caseback. This blend of finishes is beautiful and is no doubt the product of many hours of patient experimentation in the design studio, seeking the best result.
The caseback features a sapphire crystal to afford a view of the Swiss movement and is secured with four retaining screws.
The holistic approach to design excellence is obvious. Take the horns for example, they arc downwards, ensuring a comfortable fit for a broad array of potential wearers. The strap is fitted with a triple folding clasp with security push-pieces. This type of fastening, ensures greater longevity for the strap and I personally find them more comfortable to wear than the cheaper pin buckles found on other, sometimes more expensive timepieces.
Swiss movement specialist Sellita have provided the automatic movement and it is beautifully executed. The first thing you notice with the Sellita SW 260-1 calibre is the Côtes de Genève stripes on the rotor. They sit adjacent a radiant sunray motif.
The bridges are adorned with circular graining and black and rhodium-plated screws are pleasingly presented. I would have preferred blued-steel screws, but this is a small detail in what is otherwise a worthy movement at this price point.
We keep avoiding the elephant in the room, the price. I seldom mention price as it can fluctuate in different markets due to variation in taxation. However, I will make an exception in this instance. At the press conference, Baume & Mercier revealed a worldwide recommended price for this watch of 2500 CHF excluding VAT. At the time of writing this is approximately € 2.022 / £1756 / $2653 (excluding VAT), representing fantastic value for money.
This brings me back to the title of my article. This latest model from Baume & Mercier has a multi-talented appeal. Handsome looks, a quality Swiss movement, historical references and accessible pricing? Automatic. The Baume & Mercier Clifton Automatic Hours, Minutes, Small seconds, Black dial (ref.MOA 10053) is a worthy “automatic for the people”.