Baume & Mercier has changed tack radically after introducing its first proprietary movement – Baumatic™- during the SIHH in January 2018. Greeted with positive reactions, the Baumatic™ has been housed in the Clifton line of watches, Baume & Mercier’s all-rounder collection that includes the sporty Clifton Club series, clearly targeted at younger men. But above all, the Clifton Baumatic marks a new direction for the brand with its high-performance chronometer-grade movement, a diligent and admirable step up from third-party sourced movements that were the mainstay of the brand. Presented in a COSC-certified version – the Clifton Baumatic Chronometer – and three non-COSC versions with the same engine under the bonnet, this model on a steel bracelet is a casual verging on elegant watch, a perfect watch to introduce young men into the world of mechanical movements. Unassuming but handsome, well-endowed mechanically but not bulky, the Clifton Baumatic is Baume & Mercier’s proposal of a casual everyday watch with a prudent price tag.
Blowing away the Hamptons
For many years, Baume & Mercier had nurtured a generic brand image designed to evoke the lifestyle and mood of the Hamptons, the affluent American beach resort that, in my opinion, had little bearing on the Swiss brand. More in line with marketing for a company like Patek Philippe, with perfect families running barefoot in the sand, Baume & Mercier has finally, and wisely, (almost) abandoned the Hamptons – there are currently just 3 references of the Hampton on the webpage.
Instead of staging a fictitious paradise at the SIHH stand this year, Baume & Mercier decided to get technical and introduce its BM12-1975A calibre with a stand intended to highlight the mechanical attributes and properties of its new game-changing movement. Instead of whitewashed decking and artfully arranged seashells, there were serious, grey didactic panels outlining the four main properties of the new movement: anti-magnetism, autonomy, chronometric precision and durability.
Having relied on ETA and Sellita-sourced movements in the past, this new chapter in Baume & Mercier’s history is being written with a little help from its friends in the shape of Richemont Group’s movement manufacturer, Horlogère ValFleurier. As the supplier of certain movements for brands like Montblanc, IWC, Panerai and even Vacheron Constantin’s entry-level calibre 1326 powering the FiftySix collection, the decision to involve ValFleurier in the production of an automatic movement for Baume & Mercier makes a lot of sense. Given Baume & Mercier’s position as a first rung on the luxury Richemont watch ladder, the costs involved in developing its own manufacture would have been preposterous and fly in the face of the brand’s motto to produce “affordable luxury watches”. In the spirit of the history of Volkswagen (people’s car), designed to offer the public at large an affordable, well-designed and reliable car, the Clifton Baumatic is an ideal entry-level watch.
Versatile dimensions and a legible dial
Housed in a stainless steel case measuring 40mm, the size of the Clifton Baumatic is versatile and its slim profile (height 10.3mm) wears well on almost any wrist. Furthermore, the design is well-thought with a domed caseback, which allows for an even thinner caseband. This visual trick again helps to make the watch slimmer than it really is (even though it is already not that thick).
The round case, like the stainless steel bracelet, features polished and satin-finished details for a contemporary, urban touch. The pristine, simple white dial, which might remind some of you of the JLC Geophysic, evokes a slightly 1950s mood and has been sand-blasted and lacquered to give it an enamel-like finish. Unlike its brother, the COSC-certified chronometer model, this model does not feature the central cross or the word CHRONOMETER printed on its dial.
The thin elongated and polished hour markers add a touch of class as do the spear-shaped rhodium-plated hands. The minute’s hand reaches all the way out to the black printed chapter ring for precision readings of the minutes. The date at 3 o’clock and all the information printed on the dial is black for a look that is crisp, clean and legible at the same time. The overall design is clean, quite elegant and discreet (something you can expect from B&M), however, proportions are right and the addition of a steel bracelet gives more versatility, more casualness to this watch. In short, it becomes an all-rounder, which can be worn in most conditions – business or leisure – or that will please those who live in warmer areas of the world. A serious contender in the one-watch collection.
The reverse side reveals the machine-finished decorations of the movement – bridges with circular grained decor, an openworked oscillating weight adorned with “Côtes de Genève” and snailed decorations, etc… – and some of the components responsible for its solid mechanical credentials.
The real star of the show: BM12-1975A
Like its certified brother, the Clifton Baumatic 5 Days/Chronometer, this model retains chronometer-level accuracy but hasn’t undergone the COSC tests – making it even more accessible but not compromising one iota of technical quality. Calibre BM12-1975A is the first Richemont Group movement to combine a silicon balance spring and a high-performance escapement. Resilience to magnetic fields has been countered with silicon technology and the hairspring, the anchor and the escape wheel are all made from silicon offering protection of up to 1,500 Gauss, plenty for everyday life situations.
The power reserve has also been addressed and the Clifton Baumatic offers an impressive 5-day/120-hour level of autonomy, about three times the power reserve of a standard automatic watch (most ETA/Selitta movements have a 38-hour or a 42-hour power reserve). Another reassuring feature of the movement is its precision rating (-4/+6 seconds/day) on a par with COSC chronometer standards.
In addition to the model with chronometer certification, all the series production watches bearing the Baumatic™ movement are adjusted to the same exacting standards throughout the entire 120-hour power reserve. The fourth front is durability and Richemont’s Research & Innovation Teams have developed lubricants that last longer and reduce the frequency of watch service and maintenance, anywhere from five to seven years. Again, this is proof of pragmatism.
With its well-endowed movement, handsome features, timeless styling and attractive price, the Baumatic Clifton marks the beginning of a new, more technical chapter at Baume & Mercier. This model comes on a steel bracelet with a triple folding clasp with push pieces and retails for EUR 2,750 (or EUR 2,600 when worn on a leather strap.)
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic is the sort of watch that, at first, feels less attractive than it is in the metal. Admittedly, this watch isn’t meant for serious watch enthusiasts. However, for someone looking for his first serious watch – understand mechanical – or for a watch to be worn every day, everywhere, Baume & Mercier has definitely created an interesting offer.
For more information, please consult www.baume-et-mercier.com.