By Anthony DeMarco
In 2015, watch sales fell for the first time since the global economic recession. And 2016 looks like it will be a break-even year at best. So new watches released at the world’s most important annual watch fair, Baselworld in Switzerland, were more conservative then in past years. A few brands announced robust price reductions while others found more creative ways to lower the price of their watches, such as replacing gold cases with steel. Many brands continued to develop existing collections rather than striking out into the unknown.
However, innovation and risk taking wasn’t totally absent. A few of the large watch brands managed to provide exciting releases for this year by reimagining minute repeaters and tourbillions. Here are my selections for the top three introductions of 2016.
Breguet Tradition Repetition Minutes Tourbillion 7087
This watch introduces a new way to construct minute repeater by building a timepiece around a predetermined sound. It has six patents and five new elements, including reworked gong springs that strike vertically, toward the bezel. The timepiece also contains an acoustic chamber built into the case. This increases the sound of the minute repeater while filtering out sounds from the mechanism itself. The 44mm 18k gold case houses a stripped-down watch face revealing many of the mechanical processes while containing a small dial in silvered 18k gold. The Caliber 565DR automatic movement with minute-repeater and 60-second tourbillon at 6 o’clock has a titanium baseplate and bridges, magnetic strike governor and an 80-hour power reserve with the indicator in an aperture at 12 o’clock. A bi-directional platinum winding rotor is located on the periphery of the movement. It will be available in stores by the end of the year.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater
In recent years, Bulgari has made major inroads into high horology, led by its ultra-thin Octo line. It created the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch in 2014. With this new release it claims the smallest minute repeater on the market. The in-house developed and produced BVL Caliber 362 mechanical hand-wound movement with 42-power reserve is just 3.12mm thick. The overall thickness of the 40mm titanium case measures only 6.85mm. Titanium, in addition to its light weight, is also a low-density metal that ensures the best possible sound diffusion inside the small space. Titanium hour-markers on the dial feature an incised, cut-out design, as does the small seconds counter at 6 o’clock. The openings amplify resonance inside the case and thereby optimize the sound effect. Circular-section gongs directly affixed to the case and the two hammers are individually fashioned and finished by hand. The pusher activating the striking mechanism is positioned at 9 o’clock. This style is a limited edition of only 50 pieces.
Harry Winston Histoire de Tourbillon 7
The latest edition to this high horology series features two biaxial tourbillions that, according to the luxury brand, “dance with time.” The right side of the dial houses a small main dial surrounded by inserts that form a tilted three-dimensional hour circle. It sits above a roll form power reserve indicator. The left side of the case displays the two biaxial tourbillons. The first tourbillon cage moves into a second cage and both turn on a different axis. The tourbillon’s first cage completes its rotation in 45 seconds and houses a balance wheel that is tilted 30 degrees. The tourbillon and the balance wheel remain housed in the second cage, which has a different trajectory, lasting 75 seconds. Though identical in structure, frequency, and speed, each has its own behavior, due to their different positions in space. The 50mm white gold cases is fitted with a crown etched with the Harry Winston logo, three arches representing the entrance to the House’s Fifth Avenue flagship salon in New York. Like its six predecessors, is a limited edition of only 20 pieces: 10 in red and 10 in anthracite.
Anthony DeMarco is a freelance writer and editor who covers the luxury jewelry and watch industry for several publications, including Forbes.com the Financial Times, Hong Kong-based JewelleryNetAsia and the Italian jewelry magazine, VO+. He also has a blog covering the jewelry and watch industry, Jewelry News Network.