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In praise of the classic watch
New Models

In praise of the classic watch

Thursday, 17 January 2019
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

“Thirty years in journalism are a powerful stimulant for curiosity”.

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5 min read

A watch whose one and only function is to give the time is probably the most difficult exercise a maker can undertake. When the emperor has no clothes, what is revealed must be beyond reproach.

Three-hand watches witnessed a surge in interest as markets struggled to progress these past few years, particularly as a way for brands to reassure their customers as to their capacity to propose quality watches at nonetheless affordable price points, or risk being accused of catering to a fortuned few. They also benefitted from the fabulous gain in popularity of vintage, a trend more often than not associated with iconic designs whose dials retain an elegant simplicity. Now that the crisis has passed, this exercise which focuses on the bare essentials of a watch no longer has quite the same objective. But when it comes to forging an aura, nothing can replace the time-only watch, as these eleven models demonstrate.

A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 "25th Anniversary"

The first watch to appear following the rebirth of A. Lange & Söhne in 1994 was the Lange 1. It went on to become a true icon and a blueprint for the Saxon watchmaker’s aesthetic. To mark its 25 years, one of the few anniversaries being celebrated this year, the brand has crafted a 250-piece limited edition in white gold with a deep blue printed argenté dial. The hinged cover is decorated with an engraving of the A. Lange & Söhne headquarters.

Lange 1
Lange 1 "25th Anniversary" © A. Lange & Söhne
Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic

The Baumatic BM13 in-house automatic movement was the talk of SIHH 2018. COSC-certified and able to run for seven years without a service, it offers a much longer than average power reserve of 120 hours. Its anti-magnetic properties are also ten times greater than standard. This Clifton Baumatic in a 40-mm steel case with gradient blue dial is a fine example of a classic watch done well.

Clifton Baumatic © Baume & Mercier
Clifton Baumatic © Baume & Mercier
Grönefeld 1941 Principia

Three years after their multi-award-winning 1941 Remontoire, the Grönefeld brothers have released their very first automatic watch, which they’ve named the 1941 Principia in reference to Isaac Newton’s theory on gravitation, Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Because gravity causes errors of rate in a mechanical watch, the Grönefelds have fitted their movement with a free-sprung balance spring. The movement is housed inside a “classic” 39.5-mm case.

1941 Principia © Grönefeld
1941 Principia © Grönefeld
IWC Pilot's Watch Automatic Spitfire

Part of the squadron of new pilot’s watches from IWC, this Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire is shown here with a bronze case surrounding an olive green dial with gold-coloured hands, mounted on a brown calfskin strap. Making its debut is the in-house Calibre 32110. This robust and reliable automatic movement features a bi-directional pawl-winding system for a 72-hour power reserve, and is protected from magnetic fields by a soft iron inner cage.

Pilot's Watch Automatic Spitfire © IWC
Pilot's Watch Automatic Spitfire © IWC
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon Enamel

The inimitable Master collection by Jaeger-LeCoultre is joined by a tourbillon with date display, in white gold and midnight blue enamel. Despite the presence of this tourbillon escapement, invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet, which mirrors the date counter at 12 o’clock, this is very much a classic watch from the Le Sentier firm. At barely 12mm high, it spells elegance for daily wear.

Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon Enamel © Jaeger-LeCoultre
Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon Enamel © Jaeger-LeCoultre
Montblanc Heritage Day Date

Inspired by the classic Minerva watches of the 1940s and 1950s, Montblanc’s Heritage line channels the elegance of these mid-century timepieces while giving them a next-gen movement. The mechanism of this Day Date is shown here in a 39-mm polished steel case featuring curved lugs, with a silver-white domed dial.

Heritage Day Date © Montblanc
Heritage Day Date © Montblanc
Panerai Submersible 42mm

Panerai’s Submersible stands for everything a professional dive watch should be, starting with a 47-mm diameter that looks completely out of place on a woman’s wrist. For 2019, given its now classic status, the Submersible has slimmed down to 42mm, making it wearable for a much wider audience.

Submersible 42mm © Panerai
Submersible 42mm © Panerai
Parmigiani Toric Chronomètre Slate

In 2017, Parmigiani Fleurier introduced the Toric Chronomètre, a contemporary interpretation of the first watch designed by Michel Parmigiani. In 2019, the brand renews the aesthetic of this “fundamental” watch with a dial whose pattern suggests a pine cone’s scales with a hand-guilloché design derived from the Golden Ratio. Within it, Fibonacci’s spirals reproduce the harmony that is everywhere in nature.

Toric Chronomètre Slate © Parmigiani
Toric Chronomètre Slate © Parmigiani
Ulysse Nardin Classico Manara

The Italian artist Milo Manara, renowned for his erotic graphic novels, joins Ulysse Nardin to create a series of ten sensual watches. These erotic timepieces form a miniature-painted palindrome that takes us to the bottom of the ocean, in the company of Ulyssa the mermaid and her lover, Nadia, circled by a solitary, and envious, shark. The movement is the UN-320 incorporating the brand’s favourite silicon technology.

Classico Manara © Ulysse Nardin
Classico Manara © Ulysse Nardin
Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Self-Winding

Last year, as the vintage trend continued to sweep away everything in its path, Vacheron Constantin presented the Fiftysix, a watch that takes its cue from a 1956 design. After fitting it with various complications, the brand returns to the origins of this Fiftysix and introduces a version with a petrol blue dial in a hugely desirable neo-contemporary style. A sapphire case back allows a view of the movement.

Fiftysix Self-Winding © Vacheron Constantin
Fiftysix Self-Winding © Vacheron Constantin
Voutilainen Vingt-8

The Voutilainen Vingt-8 captures the philosophy of its creator, Kari Voutilainen, which is to house a solid and elegant mechanism inside a stylish and robust case. The in-house movement of this Vingt-8 stands out for its rare balance spring system, which uses a Philips exterior curve and a Grossmann inner curve. Never before has a watch featured two escape wheels in this configuration, synonymous with precision and efficiency.

Vingt-8 © Voutilainen
Vingt-8 © Voutilainen
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