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Reinventing complications
New Models

Reinventing complications

Monday, 14 January 2019
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Fabrice Eschmann
Freelance journalist

“Don't believe all the quotes you read online!”

“In life as in watchmaking, it takes many encounters to make a story.”

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6 min read

Two schools have emerged in Fine Watchmaking in recent years, one traditional and one unconventional. In 2019, it would appear that the second category has the upper hand. Take the example of these complicated timepieces, all making their debut at SIHH and all characteristic of a new way of thinking.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date

In 2009, A. Lange & Söhne debuted the Zeitwerk, its first mechanical watch with a numeric jumping display. Ten years down the line, the Glashütte firm pairs it with a new, in-house manual-winding movement with an additional function, namely a sapphire ring that travels along the edge of the dial. The date is shown by a small red cursor, placed under this ring, which advances by one increment at midnight. A power-reserve indicator and small seconds complete the display.

Zeitwerk Date © A. Lange & Söhne
Zeitwerk Date © A. Lange & Söhne
Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Perpetual Calendar

Baume & Mercier is part of the accessible luxury segment and yet the company, established in 1830, possesses enormous expertise, as demonstrated by the prestigious timepieces to come out of its workshops in recent years, including the Clifton 1892 Flying Tourbillon (2014) and the Clifton Pocket Watch 5 Minute Repeater (2015). Next in line is this Perpetual Calendar, in which last year’s Baumatic movement sees the addition of a perpetual calendar module. Fitted inside a red gold case, this anti-magnetic movement delivers five days of power reserve and will run for seven years without a service.

Clifton Baumatic Perpetual Calendar © Baume & Mercier
Clifton Baumatic Perpetual Calendar © Baume & Mercier
Bovet 1822 Récital 21

In 2016, Bovet 1822 unveiled the Shooting Star tourbillon, the first in an exclusive collection of timepieces inspired by astronomy which extended to the Astérium and Grand Récital tourbillons in 2017 and 2018 respectively. This Récital 21 reprises the “writing slope” case architecture, which allows fresh arrangements of the various indications each time. In this instance, with the exception of the perpetual calendar which is shown by a retrograde marker circling the hours and minutes, discs are used for the days and months in vertical apertures, at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock respectively, and for the leap-year indicator which occupies a circular aperture at 3 o’clock. The Récital 21 offers a five-day power reserve, and is proposed in titanium or in red gold.

Récital 21 © Bovet 1822
Récital 21 © Bovet 1822
DeWitt Academia Hour Planet

Some time ago, DeWitt strategically repositioned by cutting the number of references by three and scaling back collections. This new timepiece reflects this approach. Placing equal emphasis on mechanism and design, it reconnects with the brand’s raison d’être, to be an “inventor of mechanical machines”. A 192-link chain drives the terrestrial globe, which completes one rotation per day. Joining this visual spectacle is a day/night indication in addition to a red GMT hand. The black titanium case boasts an impressive 46-mm diameter.

Academia Hour Planet © DeWitt
Academia Hour Planet © DeWitt
Greubel Forsey Balancier Contemporain

In 2017, Greubel Forsey presented an exclusive concept for a balance wheel, distinguished by its large, 12.6-mm diameter. To allow fine inertia adjustment, and therefore precise timekeeping, six gold poising screws are set around the rim. This regulating organ was first launched as a limited edition, soberly named Balancier (“balance”), whose asymmetrical case measures 43.5 mm in diameter and 13.94 mm high. Two years on, the Balancier Contemporain adopts a more compact form, with a 39.6-mm diameter and 12.21-mm height. What could be dismissed as merely a reduction in scale in fact represents an architectural challenge.

Balancier Contemporain © Greubel Forsey
Balancier Contemporain © Greubel Forsey
Hautlence HL Vagabonde Tourbillon

Hautlence returns with a new HL Vagabonde, now with a tourbillon and, like its predecessors, rotating discs. The first disc, in the centre, carries the minute numerals and makes one rotation per hour. Circling it are three smaller discs which take turns to show the hour. Spinning at 6 o’clock is a one-minute flying tourbillon with a double balance spring. All its components are manufactured in-house by Precision Engineering AG, Hautlence’s sister company.

HL Vagabonde Tourbillon © Hautlence
HL Vagabonde Tourbillon © Hautlence
Hermès Arceau L'Heure de la Lune

Skimming the dial of this new timepiece are two mobile counters, for the hour and the date, which simultaneously conceal or reveal two moon discs – corresponding to lunations in the northern and southern hemispheres. The choreograph for this contemporary dance is an exclusive and patented module, created for Hermès. A whimsical nod to the brand, the moon hides a horse, the Hermès logo, at 12 o’clock. L’Heure de la Lune is made as two limited editions of 100 pieces; one with a meteorite dial and one in aventurine with mother-of-pearl inlay.

Arceau L’heure de la Lune © Hermès
Arceau L’heure de la Lune © Hermès
H. Moser & Cie Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black

In 2016, H. Moser & Cie launched the Swiss Alp Watch, a mechanical timepiece whose case bore a curious resemblance to the Apple Watch. A deliberate provocation from the brand which this year presents a model in the same collection, but without hands and an empty black dial. Only the tourbillon at 6 o’clock betrays the presence of a mechanical movement. Time isn’t read – how could it be – but rather heard, courtesy of the minute repeater. In order to amplify the chimes, the case had to be completely rethought, hence the hollowed middle which acts as a resonance chamber for the sound.

Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black © H. Moser & Cie
Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black © H. Moser & Cie
Ressence Type 3W

That most Belgian of Swiss brands presents the Type 3W – for white. Introduced in 2011, Antwerp-based industrial designer Benoît Mintiens’ concept is as crazy as they come: the movement is sealed inside a compartment in the case back. Above it, a second, oil-filled compartment houses the ROCS display module (short for Ressence Orbital Convex System). This patented mechanism combines discs and dials which endlessly gravitate one around the other. The transmission between the two compartments is by a series of micro-magnets, connected one to the other.

Type 3W © Ressence
Type 3W © Ressence
Speake-Marin "Légèreté" Flying Tourbillon Minute Repeater

Joining Speake-Marin’s Haute Horlogerie collection, this is the first carillon minute repeater in the world to be housed in a sapphire case. Once wound, the mechanism chimes the hours with a hammer, the quarters with three hammers, and the minutes with another hammer. At the same time, the XII numeral comes to life. Imparting its rhythm is a 60-second flying tourbillon, at 6 o’clock.

"Légèreté" Flying Tourbillon Minute Repeater © Speake-Marin
Ulysse Nardin Freak X

Purists will say it’s the end of an era! Ulysse Nardin’s Freak has become less… of a freak! This new interpretation dispenses with the signature time-setting bezel in favour of a traditional crown. The result of this concession to “normality” is a significantly less complex mechanism, although the distinctive baguette-shaped carrousel movement is as beautiful as ever. Fully visible, the entire mechanism rotates to indicate hours and minutes. Keeping time is an impressive, extra-large silicon balance, complete with nickel inertia blocks and stabilising micro-blades. The Freak X comes in titanium, rose gold, black DLC and Carbonium – an exceptionally lightweight and durable material used in aeronautics.

Freak X © Ulysse Nardin
Freak X © Ulysse Nardin
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