Hit by a sharp decline in sales, it seemed the Swiss watch industry had rediscovered the virtues of understatement and restraint. Suddenly, it was all about cutting watches down to size, specifically one that would sit elegantly on the wrist; it was about saying a lot with very little, a whisper rather than a shout; it was about wafer-thin cases, touted as the symbol of ultimate elegance and the mastery required to make the equally slim movement inside. But what if we’d been hoodwinked into believing “38mm good, 48mm bad”? Enough of the horological shrinking violet! Whatever the guardians of wrist etiquette may say, big watches, real watches, haven’t disappeared for good. Far from it. Mechanical bruisers, hunks of watch, watches that make their presence felt are still very much with us. They are often the expression of a predominantly functional view of time measurement, but not only. The industry’s “new guard” as they’re regularly referred to, the likes of MB&F, Urwerk and HYT, have also risen to prominence with “respectably” sized watches.
What hasn’t been said about these “manhole covers,” these “pizza watches”, singled out and ridiculed as the epitome of bad taste, conspicuous consumption, and the aspiration for social standing that new money can’t buy. None of this could be further from the truth. Powerful, reassuring and ready for action, big watches radiate a quiet strength, when they aren’t putting on a veritable mechanical show. Why should we have to go peering under our shirt cuff or hunting for our glasses just to read the time? So how about we give the lie to the old adage that “less is more” and admit that anything under a 44mm diameter doesn’t count! So let’s hear it for the big watch with a round-up of the past months’ new releases.
Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Indian – Ø 44.00 mm
In August 2017, Baume & Mercier announced a new partnership with Indian, America’s first motorcycle company. Fifth gear to this year’s SIHH in January, where the brand unveiled a series of three watches that included this Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Scout, a chronograph that takes mechanical and visual cues from the Scout motorbike, including an openworked dial.
Breitling Navitimer Super 8 Titanium Military Green – Ø 50.00 mm
The inspiration for this Navitimer Super 8 came from the Reference 637 stopwatch that Second World War bomber pilots strapped to their thigh. The crown, prominent on the left side of the case, and the impressive bidirectional rotating bezel are both throwbacks to the original model. Shown here in titanium with a military green dial, it’s driven by Calibre B20, a movement developed by Breitling on a Tudor MT5612 base that delivers 70 hours of power reserve.
Greubel Forsey Différentiel d’Égalité – Ø 44.00 mm
Presented at SIHH 2018, this is Greubel Forsey’s fifth Fundamental Invention, namely a différentiel d’égalité through which energy from the barrel is distributed to the regulating organ at a constant rate, thus ensuring that the balance maintains its amplitude throughout the full 60 hours of power reserve. Deadbeat seconds, the first from Greubel Forsey, make it easier to read the time and to set the watch with precision.
Hublot Big Bang MP-11 – Ø 45.00 mm
This new Big Bang MP-11 is built from ultralight 3D carbon whose fibres are woven with a three-dimensional orientation for greater strength. The seven series-coupled, horizontally aligned barrels deliver an exceptional 14 days of power reserve to the HUB9011 movement. As an additional challenge, the hours and minutes display is driven by a vertical geartrain, with a helical gear to transfer power from the barrels, while the balance is positioned on the dial side.
HYT H²0 – Ø 51.00 mm
Liquid is essential to life and to HYT’s hydromechanical watches. This H²0 stands out for the three-dimensional transparency of its domed sapphire crystal, for all the world like a pebble worn smooth by time. Time is shown by a central hand, and by the shifting frontier between two fluids, one coloured and one transparent, as they are mechanically propelled by bellows through a capillary tube.
IWC Big Pilot's Watch Annual Calendar Edition "150 Years" – Ø 46.20 mm
As part of the jubilee collection celebrating its 150th anniversary, IWC came to SIHH in January with three limited-edition Pilot’s Watches. Among them was this large version featuring a blue dial with lacquered finish. The annual calendar has an American-format display of month, date and day in three separate windows. The Pellaton winding system of the in-house IWC52850 movement uses two barrels to generate a 7-day power reserve.
Montblanc TimeWalker RallyTimer Chronograph – Ø 50.00 mm
This model is inspired by the Rally Timer counter, an icon of motor racing that was produced by Minerva, now Montblanc’s manufacturing arm, in the 1960s. Beneath the reverse panda dial beats the MB M16.29 calibre, an in-house monopusher chronograph with column wheel and horizontal clutch. Power reserve is 50 hours. The titanium case tilts up to 180° so that the time can be easily read, even at the wheel.
Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Titanio – Ø 47.00 mm
The latest version of this classic Panerai watch puts an automatic movement inside a 47mm case in titanium. Visible through the sapphire caseback, the in-house P.9010 calibre offers two useful functions: the ability to stop the balance to perfectly synchronise the watch with a time signal, and rapid time-setting. Different colours of SuperLuminova guarantee complete legibility in all conditions.
Richard Mille RM25-01 Tourbillon Adventure Sylvester Stallone – Ø 50.85 mm
Developed by Richard Mille with and for Sylvester Stallone, this RM25-01 is possibly the only watch that can measure up to Rambo, the adventurer first brought to the screen by Stallone in 1982. Designed to survive in the most inhospitable environments, it comes with a compass-bezel that can be removed and swapped for another in carbon and titanium. Other features include a 24-hour display, 70 hours of power reserve, and torque and function indicators.
RJ Spider-Man – Ø 48.00 mm
Once again RJ Watches has teamed up with an entertainment company, in this instance Marvel for a watch dedicated to that web-slinging superhero, Spider-Man. The design is replete with Spidey goodness, with a bold red Spider-Man logo applied over the dial and a metallised web on the sapphire caseback. This is a get-you-noticed watch, not least thanks to the generously sized 48mm case that houses the triple-tier skeleton movement.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Pirelli Automatic Skeleton White – Ø 45.00 mm
An Automatic Skeleton joins Roger Dubuis’ Excalibur Spider Pirelli collection, in titanium with a choice of blue or white accents. At the heart of the action lies the 820SQ calibre, automatically wound by micro-rotor for a 60-hour power reserve and hallmarked Poinçon de Genève. Characteristically for the collection, the strap incorporates rubber inlay from Pirelli F1 winning tyres.
Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph – Ø 44.00 mm
The Royal Oak Offshore burst onto the scene 25 years ago. This chronograph version is the first with a ceramic bezel in khaki green, a colour reprised on the pushers and the screw-lock crown, and reinforced by the option of a camouflage pattern strap. Inside the 44mm stainless steel case beats the automatic Calibre 3126/3840 that delivers 50 hours of power reserve.
TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 02 GMT – Ø 45.00 mm
The Carrera, which turns 55 this year, is the epitome of the dedication to innovation and avant-garde technology that TAG Heuer has put into practice from the very first Carrera of 1963 right up to the recent Connected Modular. The brand marks the event with a new iteration of its famous chronograph, powered by the in-house Heuer 02 movement with a GMT function, housed inside a hefty 45mm case.
Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive – Ø 46.00 mm
Specifications that include a helium release valve, a bidirectional bezel with notches for easy grip, a titanium crown-guard, a “comfortably” sized 46mm titanium case and water-resistance to a depth of 1,000 metres make this Diver Deep Dive an authentic tool watch for serious divers. Completing the line-up of features is a rubber strap with an expandable portion that adjusts to fit over a neoprene diving suit.
Urwerk UR-210 Black Platinum – Ø 53.60 x 43.80 mm
As Urwerk says, this is a watch that has to be seen in action to be fully appreciated. Needless to say, the revolving satellite complication and three-dimensional retrograde minutes hand demand a suitably dimensioned case to give the full measure of their mechanical performance. In a Black Platinum version, the UR-210 makes its presence felt on the wrist.
Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Ton Up Black – Ø 45.00 mm
Pilot’s watch meets competition chrono in this Type 20. The deliciously retro design is accentuated by the aged stainless steel case, luminescent facetted hands and stylised outsize numerals. True to tradition, it’s powered by an El Primero 4069 movement that measures time with tenth-of-a-second precision.