Baume & Mercier served up a treat at SIHH 2018 with the launch of a new movement that was not only developed in-house, but also delivers quality at a price that will be hard to beat. The Baumatic, as it’s known, maintains its precision throughout its five-day power reserve, withstands magnetic fields up to 1,500 Gauss (that’s 25 times the norm) and will happily run for more than five years between services. Baume & Mercier has put this new “engine” into five models in its Clifton range that will retail between CHF 2,300 and CHF 2,900. It’s an important development that no doubt prefigures one of the directions mechanical watchmaking will take.
While certain of the major, vertically-integrated Manufactures are cutting back prices by putting generic movements into some of their new watches – IWC for example, naming no names – Baume & Mercier proudly takes the opposite tack. It has never claimed to be a Manufacture, and even though it still isn’t, the Baumatic takes it one step further in terms of both what has been achieved and how. Because this new movement is a joint endeavour between ValFleurier (Richemont), Richemont’s Research & Innovation hub, and Baume & Mercier. For over five years, they worked on developing a reliable, accurate movement without allowing costs to spiral.
Based in Neuchâtel, Richemont’s R&I employs around fifty staff who share their time between the group’s various brands and the hub. “We cover a lot of ground,” says director Edouard Mignon. “Anything from improving a watch movement’s performance to exploring new territory – what’s known as disruptive innovation – or reinventing manufacturing processes for the future. We serve all the Richemont brands, including accessories and fashion.”
Calculated in Neuchâtel, made in ValFleurier, the Baumatic movement takes advantage of silicon for its balance spring and escapement. The balance spring, which combines with a variable-inertia balance, uses two layers of silicon that are bound together by a silicon dioxide film. This compensates for temperature variations and improves accuracy, which is measured at -4/+6 seconds per day and remains so throughout the entire power reserve. The lever and the escape wheel have both been redesigned, resulting in a significant reduction in the amount of energy lost through friction. These innovations, together with an optimised barrel, have increased autonomy by around 30% to five days or 120 hours.
Tribology is one of the areas researched by Richemont’s R&I. Not exactly everyday dinner-table conversation, this is the science of friction between interacting surfaces and can be a source of non-negligible improvements to watch movements. Lubricants in particular raise problems of ageing, hence why a watch needs regular servicing. Four special lubricants were created for the Baumatic, thanks to which service intervals have been extended to beyond five years.
Baume & Mercier is the only Richemont brand to take on Swatch Group and its powerhouses in the mid-range market.
The first mechanical movement to be devised and developed by Baume & Mercier, the Baumatic is making its debut on five models in the Clifton collection as a three-hand and date, though it’s safe to say we can look forward to new developments that will equip other Baume & Mercier watches. The brand has every reason to be proud: ten years ago it was struggling; now ably led by Alain Zimmermann, it is the only Richemont brand to take on Swatch Group and its powerhouses in the mid-range market.