Each January the watchmaking industry kicks off the annual season with a prestigious event held by the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, (or SIHH), a luxury watch show rivaled only by BaselWorld in terms of prestige and showmanship.
In the magnificent setting of the Palexpo facility in Geneva, Switzerland, the crème of horology get together to meet, to exhibit, to exchange opinions and set trends, and to make new discoveries. It's a place for both the trusted familliars, and for the avante garde new brands alike.
This year's entries were a colorful and interesting mix. From the bright tints of Richard Mille, to the absolute lack of color (and dial) of H. Moser – what follows is a selection of the most interesting new watches this year.
Richard Mille's Bonbon Collection
Richard Mille is a watchmaker that likes to stir things up. This year is going to be the brand's last and final year at SIHH, and they were sure to make a statement for which they will be remembered, with the colorful bonbon collection.
It's inspired by candy, by vibrant summer hues, and all things delicious, and the colors aim to evoke a sense of whimsy and joie de vivre. It makes me smile – it's like the ultimate eye-candy for watches.
There's nothing serious about these watches, and in fact, the eye-catching grand feu enamel dials, created with a novel firing and glazing technique, depict lollipops, liquorice and gumdrops, along with marshmallows and fruits. The enamel technique uses a sandpapered finish to conjure up the association with confectionary. Is it a subtle statement about the watchmaking industry as some have hinted at? Or is it all merely a bit of fun?
Don't be fooled by the playful exterior, though. These 10 models all offer carbon or quartz TPT cases, with titanium baseplates and bridges and the candied fruit and candy miniatures are all made in titanium and painted by hand. There is some serious machinery hidden behind all that color.
Moser's Tourbillion with Minute Repeater and no Dial or Hands
Then there's the complete opposite – simple and elegant black, no dial, no markers, nothing.
Why would anyone want to own a watch with no hands and no dial to speak of? It almost seems like an inside joke – yet this is exactly what H. Moser & Company have presented this year at SIHH.
Minute repeaters were originally invented for telling the time in the dark when it was impossible to see your watch's dial (also useful for the vision-impaired, before braille dials). It's something that went out of fashion when luminous paint started to be applied to the hands and hour markers, but it is still a complication worth noting among the connoisseurs. This watch, however, is a world-first.
The chime tells your ears the time instead of needing to rely on only your eyes, a useful feature for many people, but now the concept has been taken to the extreme. You might say it is the ultimate minimalist's watch, except for the fact that there is flying tourbillon displayed beautifully through an aperture on the dial – a nod to the watchmaking ingenuity of H. Moser, and a lovely juxtapose.
Panerai Marina Militare Carbotech
Panerai has a long tradition as a precision Navy diving watch, and it is always popular with diving enthusiasts and fans of big, chunky cases and robust tool watches. The new Submersible Marina Militare Carbotech model presented at SIHH has a military feel to it. It calls to mind Panerai's earliest dive watches, like the 1965 "L'Egiziano."
The Submersible PAM979 comes in a 47 mm case manufactured with carbotech, a material fashioned from carbon fiber, which is lighter than titanium and stronger than stainless steel.
The release this season was limited to 33 pieces, and the reason for the limit is the surprise addition in the box which contains the new watch. The owners of these 33 special Panerai's get a ticket to a truly unique experience – the chance to attend a training session with COMSUBIN, the Diving and Commando division of the Italian Navy.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillion
Vacheron Constantin makes some of the most complicated watches in the world. A tourbillon, like the one at six-o-clock on this dial, was originally intended for counteracting the effects of gravity on a pocket watch, making it far more accurate than the standard watches that would lose time. On a wristwatch it is more a case of showing off your manufacture skills, from a watchmaking perspective at least.
Generally watches with a tourbillon are a total flashy package, complete with a gold case, skeletonized dial, and a host of other complications. This watch in stainless steel is understated, keeping a sober balance, with handsome, simple, and mostly empty dial. It's a noteworthy addition to the Overseas Collection from this elegant brand, and definitely deserves a mention as one of the highlights of SIHH 2019.