Monochrome Watches
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Christmas Shopping Guide – The Best Ultra-Complicated Watches of 2016

| By Xavier Markl | 10 min read |
Christmas Shopping Guide – The Best Ultra-Complicated Watches of 2016

After going through some of 2016’s best sport watches and 2016’s best dress watches, it is now time for our Christmas shopping guide to gather some of the most striking complicated watches released in 2016. Be ready to break the piggy bank open as we’ll go at the cutting edge of watchmaking, with some of the most inventive, complex and intricate mechanisms unveiled in 2016. We sat down with the team aiming at picking 5 and we ended up with 8 watches (it has been a tough choice and we do what we want…), and a few special mentions.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute repeater

Just after breaking the record of the thinnest Tourbillon (read our review of the Octo Finissimo collection here), Bulgari impressed again presenting a watch that was one of the highlights of Baselworld in 2016. The concept is one of powerful design and brutal simplicity – yet utterly complex. Made out of Titanium (for the lightness and the sound, because titanium sounds great), the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater is slaying another horological record being the world’s thinnest Minute Repeater at 6.85mm. Its manual movement is only 3.12mm, which is in fact not that thicker than the average ultra-thin 3-hand movement. However here, there are some additional parts (and not just a few).

Capturing the essence of the Bulgari chic, the architectural case frames an elegant slate color dial with cut-outs to amplify the sound propagation. The case is using the quintessential Octo design, with shape angles and a mix of octagonal case with round dial and bezel. And all of that comes in a very monochromatic look, which of course is not to disappoint us.

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Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater

Technical specifications – Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute repeater

  • Case: 40 mm diameter x 6.85 mm thickness – titanium – sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating on both sides – 30m water resistant
  • Movement: Caliber BVL 362 with manual winding – 42h power reserve – 21,600 vibrations/h – Hours, minutes, seconds and minute repeater
  • Strap: alligator with pin buckle
  • Limited edition of 50 pieces
  • Price: 160,000 CHF

Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance

The Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance is, without doubt, one of the most surprising and unexpected watches introduced in 2016. This revolutionary development propels a century-old concept – resonance – to an unprecedented level. This Armin Strom might be the most convincing example of the application of resonance seen in a wristwatch recently.

The movement features two independent barrels, wheel trains, escapements and oscillators. To improve chronometry, the two oscillators are connected by a steel resonance clutch spring, attached to the balance spring studs. The two balance wheels get coupled by the tiny vibrations in the spring. The concept is impressive from a technical standpoint and the spectacle of two oscillators beating in perfect harmony is just fascinating – see the video here, just for the beauty of the spring’s ballet. Armin Strom was already a favorite of us for mixing high-end skeletonized movements and sporty attitude. Now they are entering in the restrained circle of the properly innovative manufactures.

Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance

Technical specifications – Armin Strom Mirrored Force resonance

  • Case: 43.4mm diameter x 13.0mm thick – pink gold – sapphire crystal on the front and on the back with antireflective coating – 50m water resistant
  • Movement: AFR15 with manual winding – 48h power reserve – 25,200 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, twin seconds, two independent resonant regulators.
  • Strap: horn-back alligator strap on pin buckle
  • Price: 67,000 CHF

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute GyroTourbillon

As the Reverso was turning 85 this year, Jaeger-LeCoultre featured their iconic Art-Deco inspired rectangular case with a beautiful and impressive evolution of their Gyrotourbillon (and a much thinner one than the first Reverso Gyrotourbillon, which was quite of a beast on the wrist, to say the least).

The Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon features the new, manual-winding Calibre 179, which incorporates a multi-axial flying tourbillon running at 3hz. The absence of a bridge makes the tourbillon ballet even more mesmerizing; the two carriages rotate in 1 minute (external cage) and 12,65 seconds (internal cage) and are regulated by a H-shaped Gyrolab balance with in-house hemispherically-shaped balance spring.

As all good Reverso watches, it can be worn on both faces: one displays the hours and a day-and-night indication and shows the tourbillon, the other one, even more impressive, has a second-time and is fully skeletonized and engraved. Of course, the ballet of the Gyrotourbillon is visible too. High-end watchmaking in an iconic case.

jaeger lecoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon - SIHH 2016 - 0423

Technical specifications – Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso Tribute Gyro-Tourbillon

  • Case: 51.1 x 31 x 12.4 mm – platinum – 30m water resistant
  • Movement: calibre 179 mechanical with manual winding – 38h power reserve – 21’600 vibrations/h –  hour, minute, day / night indicator, second time zone, 24 hour display, seconds, gyro-tourbillon
  • Strap: black alligator with double folding buckle
  • Limited edition of 75 pieces
  • Price: 270,000 EUR

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie

Awarded best “Mechanical exception” watch at GPHG 2016, the Audemars Piguet Supersonnerie is presented in a super-light titanium case. It combines a tourbillon, chronograph and minute repeater. Most of all, the watch boasts exceptional accoustic performance. Among the numerous innovations brought by Audemars piguet, the gongs are attached to an internal resonating membrane, independent of the case to amplifiy the sound (somehow working as a resonating chamber of a cricket watch), a intesive work on the moving part to reduce parasite noises and improved hammers and gongs that offers a greater musicality.

If the look is rather extreme and pure AP, this watch remains an impressive research laboratory for the improvement of one of the most complex, yet more ancient complications, the minute repeater.


Image from web

Technical specifications – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie

  • Case: 44 x 16.5 mm – titanium – 20m water resistant
  • Movement: calibre 2937 mechanical with manual winding – 42h power reserve – 21’600 vibrations/h –  hour, minute, seconds, chronograph, tourbillon and minute repeater
  • Strap: black rubber with AP folding buckle
  • Price: 597,400 USD

A. Lange & Sohne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon

The Datograph is without doubt one of the most remarkable modern chronographs. At the SIHH 2016, the Saxon manufacture introduced a pure horological marvel adding a perpetual calendar (that already existed, see here) and a tourbillon regulator to its iconic chronograph (this is new); thus combining the best of the brand in a single watch. The look remains rather understated, with a solely black dial, the large date at 12 and a layout to the Perpetual (meaning that the tourbillon will the pleasure of the wearer and the wearer only). At the rear of the watch, the view on the movement’s intricacies and state-of-the-art finish is absolutely breathtaking. Few calibers can claim to have more depth than this movement. For more information, read our review here.

Lange Sohne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon SIHH 2016 - _0659

Technical specifications – A. Lange & Sohne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon

  • Case: 41.5 x 14.6mm – platinum
  • Movement: calibre L952.2 mechanical with manual winding – 50h power reserve – 21’600 vibrations/h –  hours, minutes,  seconds, tourbillon with stop-seconds; chronograph with flyback and jumping minute; perpetual calendar with outsize date, moon-phase display; day/night indicator; power-reserve indicator.
  • Strap: black alligator
  • Limited edition of 100 pieces
  • Price: 295,000 EUR

Ferdinand Berthoud FB1 Chronométrie

An illustrious name Ferdinand Berthoud was resurrected recently by Chopard. The brand’s first modern creation, the FB1 Chronométrie, was awarded the top prize, the Aiguille d’Or at GPHG 2016. Its magnificent movement features a fusée-and-chain mechanism combined with a Maltese cross stopwork to deliver constant power to the Tourbillon regulator. The case’s design is not to everyone’s taste for sure, but you can’t name it shy. The overall concept has been clearly very well studied and the result is one of the most impressive movement of the year, with an incredible level of finishing and decoration. No clue if Ferdinand would have designed this watch if he was still alive, but still, he could be proud.

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronometre FB 1 - lifestyle

Technical specifications – Ferdinand Berthoud FB1 Chronométrie

  • Case: 44x 13mm – pink or white gold
  • Movement: calibre FB-T.FC mechanical with manual winding – 53h power reserve – 21’600 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve indication and tourbillon; Fusée-and-Chain.
  • Strap: black alligator with folding buckle
  • Limited edition of 2 x 50 pieces in pink and white gold
  • Price: 212,000 CHF

MB&F – Legacy Machine Perpetual

Awarded with the best calendar watch prize at Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2016, the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual is a magnificent and innovative take on a traditional complication, the perpetual calendar. Surprisingly, this was clearly not where MB&F was expected, but they did it in a superb way. This stunning piece of design features a fully-integrated complication mechanism for which corrections can be performed anytime, without risk of damaging anything (which required a complex purpose-built development – more info here). The balance wheel hovering the movement is suspended to an architectural bridge and the depth of the movement is indeed spectacular. If this Legacy Machine Perpetual was certainly quite surprising at first, it is now completely in line with the rest of the LM collection and feels like opening the door for more complications… Who said MB&F Chronograph?

MB&F legacy Machine Perpetual - Credits to The Horophile - platinum case

Image by The Horophile

Technical specifications – MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual

  • Case: 44 mm diameter x 17.5 mm thickness – 18k white or rose gold, platinum – sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating on both sides – 30m water resistant
  • Movement: manual winding, developed with Stephen Mc Donnell – 72h power reserve – 18,000 vibrations/h – fully integrated perpetual calendar with hours, minutes, day, date, month, retrograde leap year and power reserve indication.
  • Strap: alligator with folding buckle.
  • Price: 138,000 CHF in pink gold, 148,000 CHF in white gold, 168,000 CHF in platinum

Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante

The Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante is another impressive development of Sebastien Chaulmontet and his team, a sporty watch combining no less than a split-second and flyback chronograph, with 1-minute tourbillon, automatic-winding, fully integrated and in-house produced, released at 55,600 CHF – an astonishing price for a movement of this complexity. Look around, it is a real, almost unbelievable deal. All equivalent watches are over 200k.

The Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante comes in highly sportive and technical look, with an equally technical movement, partially opened and very well finished. Once again, what an achievement. Haute-horlogerie and technicality brought to an almost large audience.

Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante

Technical specifications – Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante

  • Case: 47mm diameter x 15mm height – polished and brushed grade 5 titanium – sapphire crystal on the front and on the back – 30m water resistant
  • Movement: Calibre A-150, in-house – automatic winding – 45h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – Hours and minutes, split-seconds flyback chronograph, one-minute tourbillon, power reserve indicator
  • Strap: Black stealth alligator with titanium insert or rubber on Titanium folding buckle
  • Limited edition of 25 pieces
  • Price: 55,600 CHF

Special mentions

The Patek Philippe 6300G is utterly complex and remarkable in many respects but we have not considered the piece as a 2016 novelty and it’s is more of a reedition of the 175th anniversary reference 5175. For similar reasons, we have not listed, the Greubel Forsey Double balancier à différentiel constant which is essentially a variant of the Double balancier 35°. Still, both are impressive watches.

The Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire and the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Jumping seconds are listed in our selection of the best dress watches of 2016 but could have taken a rightful place within our complication selection.

The Parmigiani Senfine was presented as a concept watch only at his stage but its Genequand escapement that uses elastic components to replace the traditional pallets to lock/unlock the escapement wheel and is extremely interesting and worth a look. For more information, read our technical perspective about the evolution of the escapement.

The Tag Heuer Carrera Heuer 02T certainly does not compete directly with the above listed watches but a Swiss automatic chronograph combined with a flying tourbillon at under 15’000 CHF (Jean-Claude Biver’s concept of affordable luxury) might be unprecedented enough to deserve a mention.

4 responses

  1. The MB&F Legacy Machine has to be one of the most beautiful movements of all time. Absolutely stunning.

  2. Hi Xavier,
    thanks for your xmas proposals 🙂 if my pocket would be that deep, I’d go for the MB&F….A beautiful piece of design/architecture before being a stunning watch.


  3. And the Swiss are puzzled as to why the high-end watch business is Tanking. Check out the prices !!!


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