One of the big surprises of the 2018 edition of the SIHH came from Baume & Mercier with its new Baumatic collection. In case you need to refresh your memory, the Baumatics were equipped with a new calibre – called BM12-1975A – made by ValFleurier, a factory that also belongs to the Richemont Group. We already reviewed the non-COSC version here, as well as the certified model, with live pics, of course. At the SIHH 2019, B&M presented the first complication of the watch: a perpetual calendar with a red gold suit to boot.
Let me say that I’ve always found the Clifton a great product for Baume & Mercier. The right mix of contemporary looks and a wide variety of complications to please both those who want their first “good watch” at a relatively affordable price, as well as those who like a bit more things happening on their wrist but without having to give their first child in exchange.
After the initial success, the rapidly evolving industry started to offer better products at better prices and the Clifton started to lose arguments to convince watch aficionados. It became too expensive for the average consumer, more attracted by mainstream brands.
This changed with the introduction of the Clifton Baumatic because the calibre offered many technical points that positioned it as a powerful contender in that league of watches, and even above it. The new Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Perpetual Calendar, presented at the SIHH 2019, wants to consolidate that point, offering a high complication in a gold case, with a price well below any other offering on the market.
In fact, there had been a Clifton Perpetual Calendar before, in 2017, but to be honest that sounded more like a marketing ploy because we never saw it live. The story is different for this new version; instead of buying a movement from the market (Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier in 2017), B&M is using the Baumatic movement, upon which a perpetual calendar module has been added. This makes for a coherent line of products, a basic principle for a respectable brand. And from a corporate point of view, it also makes sense because it generates internal production, without giving money to outside parties. Ideally, that should bring the price down, but it hasn’t. Nevertheless, we cannot overlook the fact that the new calibre is far more capable than the one used previously.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Perpetual Calendar comes in a red gold case with a diameter of 42mm and a height of 12.1mm. Because of its size – especially the height – it is not a canonical dress watch, but the Clifton collection never intended to be that. There is a less formal air about them, certainly more powerful than their Classima brothers. Even so, it sits on the wrist nicely.
The dial of the watch has been modified to make it more elegant; the traditional Clifton Arabic numerals have been substituted with applied, facetted indexes. The relief on the sub-dials has also been eliminated in order to obtain a softer, smoother surface. Finally, the moon phase disc has been enriched with more texture. On the downside, we can read the Baumatic name under the name of the company, which in my opinion over decorates the south section of the dial.
The central seconds hand of the original Baumatic calibre is also featured on this version. Which is good because perpetual calendars without a seconds hand have a lot of information available, but are so static that they lose part of the intrinsic pleasure of all things mechanical: to see things moving, working.
Another difference from the old version is the lacquer of the dial, applied in an off-white colour that makes the watch appear very harmonious and elegant. It feels warm and delicate and is reminiscent of porcelain, perfect for a high complication. The red gold contrasts nicely with the dial, enhanced by the blued hand used to signal all the calendar data.
To indicate the hours, minutes and seconds B&M has kept the Alpha-style hands – facetted and gilded – and the multiple of 5 numbers to underline the idea of precision and give it a slight sporty touch.
Baumatic Calibre BM13-1975AC-1
The calibre maintains all the characteristics of the Baumatics: silicon balance, 5-day power reserve, anti-magnetism (up to 1,500 gauss, more than enough for everyday life), chronometric precision (-5/+6 seconds) and durability (service needed only every five years). Thanks to the sapphire crystal we can see the decoration of the calibre, with perlage and snailing on plates and bridges. The rotor is gilded too, but at this level of price, we would appreciate a bit less of that industrial look.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Perpetual Calendar has a price of EUR 22,000. For that money, you will not find a perpetual calendar in red gold at any of your usual suspects. There is the Frederique Constant option, which is the most accessible manufacture perpetual calendar, but the case is gold-plated and the dial is not half as elegant. In my opinion, the strongest competitor can be found inside the Richemont Group: the Jaeger-LeCoultre Ultra Thin Perpetual – in steel, mind you – with a price of EUR 20,600, but with a manufacture movement and the JLC hand finishes.
Making a Baumatic perpetual in gold is a good idea when you need a watch with enough aplomb to spearhead a collection in the marketing war, but if B&M were to launch it in steel, with say a EUR 7,000 or 8,000 reduction in price, now that would certainly be da bomb. Let’s hope so. More information at Baume&Mercier.com.