True strength shines through in the face of adversity. As do the toughest watches. Adversity meaning the extreme conditions these timepieces are made to endure so that today’s adventurers can enjoy their reassuring presence on the wrist. While few of us are called upon to brave danger on a daily basis, who hasn’t secretly fantasised about trekking to the poles, setting a world record in athletics, or simply breaking out of their comfort zone? Well, the brands exhibiting at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie have got it into their heads to bring out our inner adventurer. Or so it would seem from the many new watches on show that are aimed at the bold and the brave, ready in both form and spirit to go the full mile. And who cares if we venture no further than our sofa? One day, perhaps, we’ll make it happen, and when we do, it’ll be with the right “instrument” on our wrist.
Diving with the elite
Panerai is an excellent example of the belief that a watch must meet “professional” criteria in order to make the grade. Dive watches are a case in point, being the only ones that have to comply with strict specifications to be so called. At Panerai, then, 2019 is the year of the Submersible: the Italian brand’s dive watch par excellence whose ambassadors are none other than Mike Horn and free-diving champion Guillaume Néry. Not forgetting the partnership, announced at SIHH, with Luna Rossa, the Italian Challenger of Record in the next America’s Cup. Skipper Max Sirena was at the event to talk about this incredible adventure, which comes with its very own Panerai watch. And that’s not all. At a time when brands swear by “experiences” to win over expectant customers, Panerai has taken the idea literally. The 33 buyers of the Submersible Marina Militare Carbotec – 47mm, presented at SIHH, will be offered a training session with the Italian Navy’s COMSUBIN elite diving and commando group (the package doesn’t include the requisite six-pack abs). In a similar vein, future owners of the Guillaume Néry and Mike Horn limited editions will be able to join these modern-day heroes in their respective domains, for a taste of adventure.
Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué already brought sensations and experiences into the mix during his tenure at Roger Dubuis. The brand has forged a fusional relationship with its partners, Pirelli and Lamborghini, and this shows in the two new watches unveiled at SIHH – the Excalibur One-Off and the Huracán. Both channel the disruptive spirit of a brand whose customers get to test their mettle driving Lamborghinis round a race track. And so from driving to flying, a subject IWC knows inside-out, having made pilot’s watches for military use since 1936. It’s precisely this type of model that’s taking the honours this year. The brand even brought an actual 1942 Spitfire to its booth at SIHH; the very one that two determined British pilots, Steve Boultbee-Brooks and Matt Jones, plan to take on a round-the-world journey for the “Silver Spitfire – The Longest Flight” expedition, an adventure which IWC naturally supports. Both these intrepid pilots were at SIHH to share their passion for what they consider to be the “ultimate” plane, and for the watches IWC makes to accompany pilots in all situations and which never fail to deliver, even when soaring above the Mojave Desert.
From watch to survival gear
There’s a quiet strength to be gained from wearing a watch you know will never let you down, one you could trust with your life. Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore — revealed as a camouflage-pattern chronograph with a 44-mm steel case that’s water-resistant to 100 metres — will appeal to every action man who wants to feel something heavy, solid and resistant on his wrist. It’s also the impression given by the Laureato Absolute from Girard-Perregaux. The black PVD-treated titanium case gets a heftier 44-mm diameter as well as increased water-resistance of 300 metres. Montblanc, meanwhile, plays the vintage card with its 1858 collection, inspired by the military watches which its manufacturing wing, Minerva, was making in the early twentieth century. Here too, the emphasis is on models built to endure every situation; in this case the dangers of mountaineering, when getting to the top and back in time can quickly become a matter of life and death. Fortunately for us, watchmakers have got our backs!