Best collections from SIHH 2018 — Day 1: Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc, Greubel Forsey, Audemars Piguet, and Ulysse Nardin
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS: BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH
Collection theme: Inspired by childhood memories of lying in the grass for a spot of stargazing, the maison has applied their expertise to recreating the wonders of the night sky. With Mother Nature driving the creative process, the focus segues into lush greenery featuring watches bearing the iconic Alhambra four-leaf clover motifs, and two new extraordinary dials. In another nod to their jewellery-making legacy, a lineup of floral secret watches made to reflect the seasons, aka the Le Jardin Van Cleef & Arpels, completes the pastoral tableau.
Star watch: Lady Arpels Planétarium (it was a hard fight between this and the Dandelion secret watch)
Did you know: It took three years to develop the Lady Arpels Planétarium, as its design started from scratch and features new everything, from its movement to the housing. And in what is deemed a miraculous feat, the watch has downsized an entire planetarium into a 38mm dial space where Mercury, Venus and Earth make their planetary orbits — yes, they really rotate — around the sun.
The devil in the details: The masterpiece utilises precious stones for the planets, with Mercury cut from mother-of-pearl and turquoise for Earth. Following closely behind our blue planet is the moon, represented by a glittering diamond. The shooting star indicates the time, and is crafted from white gold. It's not called 'Poetic Astronomy' for nothing, you know.
MONTBLANC: CHARACTER STUDY
Collection theme: Telling the story of the brand's watchmaking legacy and the mountain exploits that inspired its new 1858 collection, Montblanc revisits the '20s and '30s by spotlighting the Minerva Manufacture on the occasion of its 160th anniversary with vintage-looking novelties. Affectionately regarded as watches with character, two more collections share the stage: The Star Legacy, which extols classical watchmaking at its finest, and the sporty TimeWalker collection.
Star watch: Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
Worth the investment: Not only good-looking in all its vintage-inspired glory, the Geosphere has several functions, including a 24-hour worldtime complication with two turning domed hemisphere globes, a second time zone, and a day-night indicator. Its case and crown have also been slimmed down to give it a more streamlined, yet no less rugged, profile. Plus that special bronze alloy case? Wear it long enough and it will develop a gorgeous, unique patina.
Did you know: Beyond a timepiece, the 1858 Geosphere is symbolic of a hiker's ultimate dream, dedicated to the Holy Grail of mountaineering with the names of the world's seven highest summits stamped on its caseback. The locations of these peaks are also indicated on the turning globes, dotted in red.
GREUBEL FORSEY: REINVENTING THE WHEEL
Collection theme: It's not so much a theme as it is a concept that ties Greubel Forsey's 2018 novelties together. Like what Apple is to smartphones, founders Stephen Forsey and Robert Greubel are changing the game with what they've labelled as their fundamental inventions. Technical at its core yet easy to use in the hands of the wearer, four distinct timepieces round up the multifaceted mixed bag, each exhibiting a degree of mechanical savvy complemented by killer aesthetics and (of course) flawless performance.
Star watch: GMT Earth
Cool specs: Housing a petite 3D globe — which you can see unhindered with a 360-degree view thanks to an all-around transparency — the watch case is crafted entirely out of synthetic sapphire glass, and is one single piece going from cover to bezel to caseback. This three-dimensionality extends to its complications, which includes three timezone indications: Worldtime, GMT and local time display. But the highlight is the Tourbillon 24 Secondes, the brand's third pivotal invention (that has three patents, BTW), which spins in direct synergy to the globe's 24 hours, making one revolution in 24 seconds.
Keep an eye out for: Mechanical Nano, Greubel Forsey's brainchild that's set to transform the industry. The maison has 20 per cent of their manpower solely dedicated to applying this concept in a watchmaking complication. Part II: The Nano Foudroyante à Affichage, which will have a whopping 180 days of power reserve. Coming soon to a watch fair near you.
AUDEMARS PIGUET: THE ROYAL OAK CLUB
Collection theme: Coming up on the 25th anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon has the maison centering their efforts on the iconic, superstar collection. With launches that push the envelope when it comes to combining sleek design with technicality, the Audemars Piguet DNA gets an added layer of covetability, featuring new complications — like their first ever flying tourbillon for both men and women's watches — and fresh design aspects such as a Polish mesh bracelet and the use of opal in the Millenary collection.
Star watch: Royal Oak RD#2
X-Factor: It's the thinnest perpetual self-winding watch in the market, which took five years of development to in order to 'fit a three-storey house into a one-storey house while keeping all the furniture', as said in an apt analogy by the brand's head of product development. Down to the last millimetre, it's 2mm thinner than the Jumbo Royal Oak. AP fanatics, please go ahead and foam at the mouth.
Insider secret: CEO François-Henry Bennahmias recounted an anecdote wherein two watchmakers were heatedly debating the nature of the calibre meant to power the Royal Oak RD#2, which escalated into an altercation when fists went flying. That's passion right there.
Collection theme: With a hashtag like #Freakmeout, the nautically inclined brand certainly wasn't pulling any punches when it comes to the element of shock. In partnership with artist Damien Hirst for a series of provocative press images — like a man walking his pet shark underwater — Ulysse Nardin is equally disruptive with its Freak icon, re-making its mechanism with the innovative grinder automatic system launched the previous year. But in a cheeky turn, the hashtag has a double entendre, referring to the Classic Voyeur novelty, which you'll need to see to believe (trust us).
Star watch: Freak Vision
Cool specs: The aforementioned grinder automatic system is developed such that the Freak Vision runs on self-powered energy... sort of. It works via energy transfer from the bearings to the gear train, derived from every movement you make with your wrist.
X-factor: It's X-rated (like, legit) for the Classic Voyeur collection. There are miniaturised naked couples in flagrante delicto — why hello, hand-engraved penis — with no less than three different dials depicting various positions. And as they're minute repeaters to boot, activating the complication will see some... hot and heavy action as the novelty chimes.
For more coverage of SIHH 2018, click here.