Salon Les Montres, 3 days of discoveries in Paris

In Paris, watch lovers have a chance to discover the latest horological wonders. Arnaud and Jean Lassaussois, watch experts and owners of the stores Les Montres and recently Montres Collector, which focuses on second hand and vintage pieces, return with their Parisian watch event.

By Benjamin Teisseire

Held in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, The Salon Les Montres recently offered 3 days of discoveries from 13 great watchmakers for the greatest pleasure of all aficionados. Multiple pleasures awaited those visiting, not only due to the magnificent setting and the relaxed atmosphere, but also as you could actually buy the precious timepieces. You also had the chance to discover the leather workshop of Camille Fournet (producer of high end colorful leather straps), book watchmaking classes with my friends Jean-Yves and Samir from Objectif Horlogerie or let your imagination roam in the poetic and illuminated cristal sculpture of Alain Pers, the time sculpter.

In a current gloomy market with the decreasing tourist flux due to political uncertainties, the volatile currencies, the deserting Russian collectors and the stalling of the Chinese market…what have the brands decided to present? The general trend confirms the impressions of the SIHH and Baselworld. Sobriety with less exuberant complications are presented with brands focusing on their iconic models and play the trendy vintage card. Stainless steel steals the spotlight and enables great names to offer their know-how at affordable prices, ceramic is also well represented with welcomed innovations. Finally, women are openly courted with new and beautiful timepieces. Here is a little tour of the major brands.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe limited edition Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe limited edition

Blancpain presented its novelties from Basel and more. The Villeret collection offers a steel version of a useful complication with its Annual Calendar GMT, an elegant and racy timekeeper for €25.440. The iconic Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe limited series introduced at Basel with its gorgeous blue ocean sunray face, its blue ceramic bezel and its grey satin-polished ceramic case is sold out…but collectors can be reassured, a new edition is being released in October. Being released at a price of€11.980, it will certainly sell out as quickly as its predecessor. Finally, Blancpain showcased its first Women Ultraplate in steel with a sapphire back at less than €10.000 and for the greatest delight of experienced feminine collectors.

Baume et Mercier emphasizes women as well in their central display. Their Promesse series with their polished steel double bracelet and mother of pearl dial set with diamonds exudes femininity. So too does their Clifton models, in smaller 30mm versions which mix sobriety, elegance and classicism. On the vintage side, the second limited edition (4x15 pieces) of the very successful Capeland Shelby Cobra is revealed. The 4 «legendary drivers»adorn the numbers of the successful drivers of this mythical car:  «15»for Dan Gurney, «50»for Ken Miles, «96»for Allen Grant and «97»for Dave MacDonald.

Baume et Mercier Promesse 10160 Baume et Mercier Promesse 10160

Tag Heuer unveiled the history and heritage of its Carrera through a circuit race…with the Oculus (virtual reality headset)…stunning! One word of advice is to try it preferably on an empty stomach! The vintage touch comes with the Monaco and a very faithful re-edition of the original 1969 version. It makes you want to jump in your Mustang 1967 and race down the streets of San Francisco (even if Steve McQueen wore it during the movie Le Mans in 1970, I like this pursuit better!). Finally, Tag Heuer continues to push forward with the Heuer 01, a skeletonized chronograph, mixing steel and ceramic with an in-house caliber for less than €5.000. Times have clearly changed.

Zenith, in the midst of being gripped by the expert hands of Jean-Claude Biver, concentrates on its flagship model El Primero with, of course, a limited series. The Cohiba version is sold out so the Rolling Stones takes the spotlight. This timepiece is definitely rock & roll with its black matt dial, distinctive opening on the face to preview the movement and of course, its famous tongue sticking out at you on the oscillating mass…all for €7.700. Heritage is also put forth at Zenith through their vintage Pilot models with their XXL roman numerals, oversized crown, Nubuck leather bracelet and their «old school»hands. The Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze is particularly well executed and appealing for less than €7.000.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire All Black Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire All Black

Hublot celebrates the tenth anniversary of their All Black concept with a Big Bang Unico Sapphire All Black. A trend that Hublot has initiated and that has since been duplicated by many brands. The smoked polished black case and back, the translucent resin skeletonized dial and the striped bracelet convey an impression of sheer strength and boldness. Its transparency and light weight construction when you wear it, makes it a perfect balance…a real feat! Hublot stands out once more with a creation in collaboration with tattooist Maxime Büchi, the Big Bang Sang Bleu. It looks like a true mandala, superimposing rounds and squares amidst a hexagonal bezel! Time is given through 3 overlapping octogonal rhodium-plated discs with a mesmerizing result! Hublot still displayed its Classic Fusion range which have enabled it to reach a new clientele with more affordable prices, starting at €6.000.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph

Even Vacheron Constantin continued it successful re-launch of the Overseas with their gorgeous chronograph on a deep and pure blue dial which twinkles under the light and comes in steel on an extremely comfortable steel bracelet. The brand has found a way to give access to the brand to new customers with this re-launch. The same goes for the Quai de l’Île, you can now own the classicism and fine watchmaking tradition of Vacheron Constantin, with its Geneva Hallmark and in steelfor €16.200. The other historical models, the Cornes de Vaches and Patrimony are also on display with the elegance and sobriety which are characteristics of the old house.

On the innovation side, Breitling stands out with their connected Exospace B5. It manages to keep the brands’professional fundamentals and to surf the wave of the current times. Useful functions (7 alarms, «Tilt»function which lights the watch at 30°, swap time with instantaneous setting of the hands, flight time chronometer, countdown…), a two month battery, email, whatsapp, message notifications, the Exospace works and is a success…which comes at a price, €6.800 in grey titanium. But the icons of the brand are never far, such as the Navitimer or the Superocean, the latter offered in a Special Black Steel version with a black ceramic bezel, water-proof to 1000m.

Breitling Exospace B55

Omega continues the promotion of its own Master Chronometer certification which guarantees a 0/+5 spread, well below the -4/+6 of the COSC. The brand introduced a Seamaster Co-Axial GMT 150 with a 43mm titanium brushed case, royal blue indexes on a blue nylon bracelet. The result is a perfect balance between sport and chic. A great watch for €6.000.

Finally Panerai surfs on its flagship model with the Luminor Due where the original 1950 case is reduced in size and weight in order to reach new customers. The steel version with a sunray dial comes at an entry price around €7.900. Thinner watches, controlled prices, Panerai also adapts to the market.

Special mention for Chanel who, faithful to its transgressive yet classic image, offers at the same time a real fine watchmaking tradition timepiece with its Monsieur, its in-house movement and Romain Gauthier finishing. The J12XS quartz version in ceramic on a fashionable wrap-around cuff was also presented to further entice their female clientele.

Voilà. This shows clearly that the trends which started last year are here to stay for the greatest pleasure of watch lovers, in particular in Europe. Crisis has forced brands to get back to earth and concentrate on what they make best while offering true value to the aficionados.

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