As 2019 is coming to an end, we’ve gathered the MONOCHROME redaction team and started to think about the watches that most impressed us this year. After a look at the best chronographs, the best dive watches, the best traveller’s watches and our favourite accessible watches, it is time to look at the stuff dreams are made of… The inaccessible, the exceptional, the watches without compromise – but not those that are unattainable just to show off, but because what’s inside is pure high-horology. So here are the 5 high-end and complicated watches that we consider our Best of 2019.
Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance
The past couple of years, Armin Strom has been demonstrating impressive innovation spirit and cutting-edge technology, first and foremost with its one-of-a-kind Resonance concept – one of the few that truly works. After several watches with this technology only, the brand has decided this year to combine it with one of the most complex of functions, the minute repeater. And the result is mechanically and visually stunning – a treaty of symmetry and movement architecture.
Developed with the help of chiming watches specialists Le Cercle des Horlogers, the front displays a central time indication, the resonance regulators and spring in the lower part, repeater hammers on top and gongs that are shaped to follow the curves of the display. Modern and technical on the front, the back is equally desirable with all the repeater parts on full display, with superb decoration. The titanium case allows for lightness (the watch is rather sizeable) and for better propagation of the repeater sound. Armin Strom is on the rise.
Quick Facts: 47.7mm diameter x 16.10mm height – grade 5 titanium case – Calibre ARR18, developed by Armin Strom and Le Cercle des Horlogers – hand-wound – minute repeater and twin-regulator with resonance spring – limited edition of 10 watches – CHF 380,000
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
This watch certainly deserves its place here, in our Best of 2019. Not only is it our founder’s favourite piece of the year, but it is the watch that was awarded the Aiguille d’Or at the GPHG 2019. And for obvious reasons. Presented first as a concept piece, the RD#2, Audemars Piguet demonstrates here its mastery of ultra-thin movements and of its signature complication, the perpetual calendar. By rethinking entirely the architecture of the movement, which isn’t a base and module anymore, but a one-layer calibre, the brand has achieved the thinnest perpetual calendar watch ever, at only 6.3mm in height – almost 2mm less than a time-and-date Royal Oak Jumbo.
To our great pleasure, the brand implemented this movement in a watch that looks RO all the way, without being overly demonstrative or exuberant. Made of titanium and platinum, it is thin, light, perfectly proportioned and still retains the traditional luxury sports watch look, allowing for an almost daily-beater ability.
Quick Facts: 41mm diameter x 6.3mm height – grade 5 titanium and 950 platinum case – Calibre 5133, in-house – automatic – ultra-thin perpetual calendar – ref. 26586IP.OO.1240IP.01 – CHF 140,000
Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette 5395
When you think about Breguet, you will almost certainly picture a classic watch with a silvered guilloché dial or a milky-white enamel dial punctuated by the hallmark Breguet numerals. True, but only partially. This year, Breguet demonstrated another side of its skills, with the impressive, opulent but exquisitely decorated reference 5395. Its solid gold movement has been entirely skeletonized by hand with one of the most delicate decorations we’ve seen this year. Hand-polished bevels and sharp angles everywhere, guilloché on the main plate, fine graining, beautifully shaped bridges that surround the technical elements.
Second, this has been executed on the Breguet’s innovative ultra-thin tourbillon movement, which features a 4Hz regulator in titanium and silicon, as well as an unobtrusive and space-saving peripheral rotor mounted on ball bearings. A demonstration of savoir-faire that certainly isn’t as subtle as the rest of the Breguet production, but still highly desirable.
Quick Facts: 41mm diameter x 7.70mm height – 18k pink gold or 950 platinum – calibre 581SQ, in-house – automatic tourbillon with peripheral rotor – ref. 5395BR/1S/9WU or 5395PT/RS/9WU – EUR 219,500 (pink gold)
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetuel
“La Grande Maison” might be known for the Reverso and recently for its focus on the Polaris collection, but it still has the ability to produce some of the finest movements of the entire industry. Presented at the SIHH 2019, the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetuel (a mouthful…) combines some of the signature (superlative) complications of the brand in one single piece, with superb execution. This watch, which we’ll name the “Gyrotourbillon 5”, features the impressive Gyrotourbillon, rotating on 3 axes, combined and with a constant force mechanism.
The repeater side of the watch is equally impressive, as it replicates the chimes of Big Ben thanks to a set of four gongs and hammers. Finally, it features a perpetual calendar, which can be adjusted in both directions and with a pointer that jumps over the tourbillon opening. And the finishing/decoration of the movement and case are top-notch… resulting in quite a high price, to say the least.
Quick Facts: 43mm diameter x 14.08mm height – 18k white gold – Calibre 184, in-house – hand-wound – perpetual calendar and Gyrotourbillon, minute repeater with Westminster chimes – limited to 18 pieces – EUR 800,000
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar
Up to 65 days of power reserve… and without exotic materials and out-of-space technology. Just clever, well-thought architecture. But why would you need such a long power reserve? Well, one of the main problems of perpetual calendars, set apart by the fact that they are one of the greatest examples of miniaturized mechanics, is that they are usually complex to adjust and fragile. Most of the damages occur when adjusting the movement. Vacheron Constantin’s answer to this issue is not your typical protection mechanism. The Traditionnelle Twin Beat features a classic QP and a movement that, in “Active Mode”, runs at a high-beat 5Hz frequency. But…
There’s a pusher at 8 o’clock that allows disengaging the main regulator and to switch on “Storage Mode”, the watch becoming a slow runner with a secondary gear train and regulator, running at 1.2Hz, just to keep the watch alive and to have the QP indication still correct. And when doing so, the power reserve goes from 4 days to an astonishing 65 days. Best of all, the Traditionnelle Twin Beat is superbly crafted, modern but still relatively restrained, as a Vacheron should be. Impressive.
Quick Facts: 42mm diameter x 12.3mm height – 950 platinum case – Calibre 3610 QP – hand-wound – perpetual calendar with twin-beat technology – EUR 210,000