Frank Geelen’s Top 10 of the SIHH 2017

The SIHH 2017 ended already a few weeks ago, and our own Xavier an Brice already shared their favorites of this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. In the mean time I’ve been busy, among others with a trip to the far north of Finland with Porsche and Porsche Design. While drifting on ice with a host of 911’s, I got to experience how perfectly both brands match, and I got a lot of hands-on time with the 1919 Chronograph that Porsche Design introduced at Baselworld last year. Later more about that, but now it’s time to list my top 10 watches from the SIHH.

It was a rather interesting year with many new models being offered at more competitive pricing; the financial crisis, new anti-corruption laws in China and the Swiss Franc and Euro exchange rate being disconnected, certainly inspired brands to act on pricing. Another interesting topic, is that the sports watch segment just became more interesting with a lot of new models from Montblanc, Girard-Perregaux and Baume & Mercier. In the Ultra High-end segment it seems that brands are not so much affected by the high prices, and the main focus remains creating interesting (and sometimes even useful) complications, superb hand-finishing, and more appealing designs remain key to success in this segment.

Here are my ten favorites of this year’s SIHH, in alphabetical particular order. Complicated watches, dress watches and sport watches are all here…

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Decimal Strike

Lange Sohne Zeitwerk Decimal Strike

Since the German brand introduced the Zeitwerk in 2009, it has been a talking piece. Such a novel design, such novel way to indicate time. It was and is a rather unexpected design coming from a classic brand like A. Lange & Söhne. After several chiming Zeitwerk variations, like the Decimal Repeater and Striking Time, the brand now introduced what could well be the best CEO’s wrist watch you can imagine. The Zeitwerk Decimal Strike strikes once every ten minutes, and the sound is just a gentle note, nothing intrusive! This gives you a very good feeling of how fast (or slow) your daily meetings pass by without looking at the clock, and it will allow you to make the most of every meeting. It comes in a lovely 18 carat honey gold case, and with tremblage finishing on the steel hammers and hammer-bridges, to add a touch of “handswerkskunst” to this already mighty wrist watch.

Drive de Cartier Extra Flat

Drive de Cartier Extra Flat 430MC - SIHH 2017

Last year Cartier introduced the Drive de Cartier, and this year they extend the collection with a moon phase and an extra flat edition. The latter is slightly smaller than the rest of the Drive de Cartier collection and, as the name indicates, extra flat. It makes a lovely dress watch, which is just a bit different from the average classic round dress watches out there, and therefore perfectly befits the brand that is known for their beautifully shaped watches. Inside ticks the Piaget calibre 430P, an ultra-flat movement from the iconic watchmaker that is known for its ultra-flat watches and movements. The Drive de Cartier Extra Flat is only available in gold, and comes at a retail price of approx. € 15k. Euro.

Girard-Perregaux Laureato

Girard-Perregaux Laureato

Last year Girard-Perregaux introduced a limited edition to re-introduce the Laureato into the brand’s collection and that already stirred up emotions among fans of the brand. After a slight redesign and improving on some design details, Girard-Perregaux now introduces a full line-up for the new Laureato collection and it has never looked better. The new Laureato collection looks great, wears great and comes at a rather pleasant price point (approx. € 10.000 Euro). As a purist I’m pleased to see that the new Laureato has been equipped with a different, larger movement (calibre GP1800) that perfectly fits into the case. At its price point the new Laureato makes a great alternative to the Piaget Polo S and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 15400, and with that the luxury sports watch segment has gained a new player of importance!

IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph in steel

IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Steel

The IWC Da Vinci collections has known quite a few different designs in the past years, and with the entirely new collection, they hark back to the Da Vinci collection from the 1990’s. That collection featured rather unique articulated and flexible lugs. Very comfortable on the wrist, but maybe not to everyone’s taste. The new Da Vinci collection features lugs that are inspired on the 1990’s collection, however it looks like they have done everything right now. The flexible lugs are very comfortable on the wrist, and no matter whether your have a large or small wrist, watches from this collection will fit nicely around the wrist regardless of the size. The model that stood out from the “Da Vinci” crowd was the stainless steel version of the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph. The slate grey dial with sun-ray finish, lowered sub dials, and one sub dial with blue aventurine, just works fabulous. With a retail price of just over €32k it isn’t exactly the bargain of the week, however I do think it’s a fair price for such a beautifully made and finished watch.

Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole

Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole

Laurent Ferrier is just one of the most interesting new brands in the market, at least for people who have a budget of at least 35k or more to spend. In terms of design, style, and at least as important, technical content, they are on top of the game. Inside the new Montre Ecole ticks the lovely micro-rotor movement (in-house of course) that features a double direct impulse on the balance. A technical feat that is quite unique, and something that admirers of high-end watches will most certainly appreciate. The Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole perfectly blends a sort of sporty chic with clean and classic dress watch properties, and therefore is a perfect allrounder that can be matched with all kind of activities and outfits. Let’s say it’s a very versatile watch, and its “fly under the radar” style perfectly hides the magnificent “technical content” inside. Check the write-up that Brice did about this one that is one of my favorite watches of the year.

Montblanc Timewalker Chronograph

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Automatic - SIHH 2017

A complete re-design of a rather unique collection, the Montblanc Timewalker collection. The previous iterations balanced between chic, dressy, and sporty, and while many really liked the design, it never became a great success for the brand. The new Timewalker collection gets rid of the duality, and now focuses on the sporty side of the collection. By keeping some of the design cues, like the case shape, slightly recessed parts in the lugs, and the large numerals on the dial, it remains recognizable as a Timewalker, however it also shows an entirely new face. Much sportier, and now with ceramic bezel and a choice of befitting sporty straps, the new face for Montblanc takes shape. It enters into a market that was once dominated by TAG Heuer, Omega, Tudor and IWC. Today Omega and IWC have moved to a higher segment, with higher prices. The new Timewalker collection comes at a very attractive price point and can easily compete with TAG Heuer and Tudor. I think a great move from the brand and the €2k – €5k segment just got a very interesting new player. The new Timewalker chronograph, water resistant to 100 meters, features a host of lovely details and comes in at a price of €4k, while the time-only version is available for €3k, and the ADLC black UTC version (second timezone) is available for just under €5k. Bravo to Montblanc!

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Metrographe

The Parmigiani manufacture is well equipped with their own case makers, dial makers, and of course their own movement manufacture, named Vaucher. With strong designs like the Tonda 1950 they show that the brand has a certain joy-de-vivre that’s so well befitting the brand. The new and improved Tonda Metrographe now features an additional tachymeter scale around the dial, and a big date, and somehow the watch now finally looks sporty. Sporty-chic that is, as that’s the style of the brand, and the quality and level of finishing is still at top level. If you’re in the market for a good looking high-end sports chronograph, than you should certainly have a look at the new Tonda Metrographe!

Piaget Altiplano 60th Anniversary 38mm

A classical take one of the of the most iconic, yet properly understated, watches of all times, the Altiplano. This Piaget was and still is a perfect definition of the tuxedo/dress watch. Ultra-thin, refined, discreet, highly elegant… Everything in this watch looks dapper. For the 60th anniversary of the model, Piaget came with an entire celebration collection. But of all these novelties, one is just the perfect interpretation. A 38mm white gold case, a blue dial with central cross like in the old days, long and thin applied markers, a simple and historically relevant logo (and nothing more), sharp shape, again like the original one. Inside is the in-house calibre 430P, a manually-wound ultra-thin movement (2.1mm thick), which allows the Altiplano 60th anniversary 38mm to be really what we call a thin watch. Elegance to the highest level.

Ressence Type 1 Squared

I always had a soft-spot for Ressence, for this mix of highly original, very mechanical display, which allows an unusual motion of the time, without being too disruptive either, all that combined with a minimalistic, almost non-horological case. This was love at first sight for me, however it might not be for all collectors. This year, Ressence becomes more adult, more horological with a new shape for the Type 1: an elegant, thin, well proportioned cushion-shaped case made out of stainless steel. The Ressence Type 1 becomes more mature. It is a very accomplished timepiece, which shows a perfect execution and an intense reflexion on every details – design, feeling when worn and touched, usability… An yet, it doesn’t loose a bite of what made the previous watches so desirable. Truly achieved!

Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon

SIHH 2017 - Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu Enamel

Since a few years Ulysse Nardin seems to have been completely re-energized and they are coming with superb new timepieces at a very competitive pricing. Last year the marine inspired brand introduced an annual calendar into the Marine Chronograph, and they did that with no price increase. This year they proposed the same Annual Calendar for the Marine Manufacture Chronometer. And to top it off they introduced the beautiful Marine Tourbillon, which comes in at a price of well below $30,000 usd, and features a brand new in-house movement with silicium escapement (no more problems with magnetism that can affect your beloved wrist watch), a 60-hour power reserve and a magnificent flying tourbillon that is visible through an aperture in the Grand Feu enamel dial.

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