By Anthony DeMarco
The 2016 edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie SIHH, the second largest gathering of the Swiss watch industry, was held as global watch sales were in decline for the first time since the 2008/09 financial crises. This may have resulted in fewer groundbreaking innovations at this year’s show. In fact, two of the most notable developments were not yet available to the public.
Despite this, the mood at SIHH 2016 was largely positive with the 15 established watch brands and nine independent artisan workshops (invited to SIHH for the first time) presenting more than enough new items in a number of styles and price points that left retailers and journalists satisfied.
One of the few big ticket items came from Richard Mille, known for combining high-tech materials and processes in its innovative, futuristic watches. This year, the watchmaker partnered with the exclusive Airbus Corporate Jets division of the Airbus Group to produce the RM 50-02 Tourbillon Spilt Seconds Chronograph ACJ. It incorporates design details and materials of the ACJ aircraft. The tourbillon driven, split seconds chronograph functions both as a regular chronograph for measuring longer-term events and in a split seconds mode as a device for measuring events up to 60 seconds. Stopping and starting the chronograph and splits seconds function are controlled by three pusher mechanisms. It’s limited to 30 pieces and has a price tag of more than $1 million.
Van Cleef & Arpels
The other high-priced item was for the ladies in the form of the “Rubis Secret” jewelry watch bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels. This unique piece features white and pink gold covered in 115 oval-cut Mozambique rubies (151.25 tcw.). They are arranged in three even, smooth rows, despite slight variations of cut, from oval to cushion. Each row of rubies is separated by three rows of diamonds and further enhanced by tiny pairs of round diamond studs throughout the bracelet. The “secret” in this bejeweled bracelet is that the small, rectangular quartz-powered watch that discreetly slides in and out on a white gold plate. An “invisible” hinge for the sliding door is only visible when the drawer is opened when pressing on the rubies. The high jewelry piece required 1,500 hours, or more than year’s work to complete. The price is available upon request.
A. Lange & Söhne
The German watch brand known for creating highly technical complications inside beautifully balanced dials, introduced the latest edition of its highly praised Datograph chronograph timepieces, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon. This newest version combines the Datograph chronograph with a flyback function and Up/Down power reserve indicator and the typical Lange outsize date; with a perpetual calendar with a moon-phase display; and a tourbillon exposed on the sapphire-crystal caseback and the open tourbillon bridge. The Datograph was introduced in 1999 and it remains an extremely popular watch among collectors.
MB&F, perhaps the most successful of the new group of artisan workshops at SIHH, not only introduced its latest “horological machine” but also unveiled its latest in artistic and creative table clocks. Called “Sherman,” it is once again made in partnership with Swiss clock manufacturer, L’Epée 1839. It is in the shape of a boyish robot, with movable arms and hands, and tank-like caterpillar tracks for feet. It was inspired by the US Sherman tank and MB&F’s founder, Maximilian Büsser’s on-going quest to revisit his childhood. The balance and escapement of L’Epée’s eight-day, in-line movement is located under the transparent dome of Sherman’s head.
The watch brand was the latest at SIHH to dedicate itself to women, declaring 2016 to be the “Year of the Velvet Diva” by focusing on a collection of ladies watches called, Velvet. The five-watch collection combines high jewels powered by robust automatic movements.
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.
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