The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), an invitation-only luxury watch show held annually in Geneva, is where the heavy hitters of high horology launch their latest. It’s a happy hunting ground for guilty pleasures if innovative, expensive watches are your thing.
Here we look at six watches that made waves this year.
The Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar
From a technical point of view, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar was the hit of the show and one of the most innovative developments in watchmaking in some time. It has a dual frequency movement and here’s why: The slower the frequency (the number of oscillations) in a mechanical movement, the more vulnerable it is to external disturbances that can affect its performance. Yet the higher the frequency, the more power reserve it uses, and the more wear and tear it wreaks on the movement. The Twin Beat solves the problem with two balances, one oscillating at 36,000 beats per hour (5 Hz) for when you’re wearing it, and the other at 8,640 vph (1.2 Hz) for when you take it off so it doesn’t drain the power from the mainspring. That means a potential power reserve of 65 days – the standard is 42 hours. No matter which mode it is in, it still keeps time, and you don’t have to reset the perpetual calendar when you switch modes.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel
Watch-making’s most prestigious complications are, in no particular order: minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and tourbillon. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel has them all, and then some. The tourbillon is a multi-axis one with a spherical hairspring, and the minute repeater is a Westminster Chime with four sets of hammers and gongs (instead of the usual two), as an homage to the Westminster carillon that rings from the bell tower at Big Ben in London. Fun detail: the date hand jumps from 16 to 17 so as not to obscure the view through the tourbillon aperture.
The Girard-Perregaux Bridges Cosmos
The complications in the Girard-Perregaux Bridges Cosmos are nothing new, but this watch raises the bar on showmanship. In one 48mm watch, you get a 3D depiction of the 12 constellations on a globe, a 3D model of the Earth on another sphere, a day/night indicator, GMT second time zone, and a tourbillon. The two globes represent views from earth to space and vice versa, one of which rotates every 23 hours, 58 minutes, and 4 seconds to show celestial time. Oh, and the constellations light up via luminescent hydroceramic particles.
The Cartier Privé Skeleton Dual Time Zone
The Cartier Privé Skeleton Dual Time Zone pays tribute to an archival model with two time zones that ran on separate mechanical movements. Now, one movement operates both. Caliber 9919 MC was designed vertically to fit the tonneau case. This is a limited edition of 100 pieces in platinum, priced at $99,500, and 100 pieces in 18k rose gold, priced at $87,000, available by appointment only at Cartier boutiques beginning in September.
Piaget’s signature specialties are ultra-thin movements and mineral dials. In fact, it was Piaget’s penchant for thick mineral dials that led it to develop ultra-thin movements to keep the bulk down. The case of the new Altiplano tourbillon is a mere 7.44mm thick thanks to an ultra-thin flying tourbillon caliber. The dial is meteorite, which is often touted as rare, but seems to be everywhere this year. This one is galvanized a blue color, and the bezel is set with 85 diamonds, which makes it a good watch to hide from your girlfriend.
The Panerai Submersible
The Panerai Submersible is one of those watches with a distinct design code and a singular purpose: large, sporty and geared to diving. So even a small variation, like going from 47mm to 42mm is notable. Also new on the Submersible Carbotech 42mm (PAM00960) is a super-lume treatment – the raised indexes are full blocks of Super-LumiNova – and a new carbon fiber based case material called carbotech that is lighter than titanium. The result is a new cult favorite for Paneristis. Priced at $22,600, it is one of several new Submersibles being introduced this year.