SIHH 2016: the future goes vintage
Futurism is quite the trend at the SIHH 2016 with the presence of nine companies that are in the business of nouvelle horlogerie. Nevertheless, a number of traditional exhibitors are still devoted to the manufacturing of watches whose design is inspired from past references, which places them in the family of vintage instruments. Lights!
Jubilees often offer the brands an excuse to focus on a flagship reference from their heritage and to use these to draw attention to their history and their skill set. Generally, one needs a reason to go back to the past. Without that, the average fan might suspect that the brands are passionate about some sort of idealized Golden Age. That is why most of the companies do take the opportunity of birthdays to boost one or other collection.
For the sake of celebration
Over the years and with the growing media attention for watchmaking products, the celebrations, which were usually every ten years, have started coming every five years. This year, Jaeger-LeCoultre is celebrating 85 years of the Reverso with the launch of a revisited collection. Among the modifications they have brought to this iconic piece is an hour selector for the second time zone, which is placed on the flat part of the case middle. This allows the watch to recover its original profile by removing the ungracious excrescence of the pusher. So additions sometimes have a positive effect. On the other hand, the obsession with wanting to make the watch an automatic is somewhat regrettable. It is understandable, but what might have been especially interesting would have been to develop a dedicated caliber with a tangential mass, rather than install a round mechanism into a rectangular case.
Vintage as an aim
IWC, on the other hand, is not celebrating anything special this year. So it chose to reinterpret the Pilot collection and make it a little more civil, so George Kern, the company CEO. This subtly reinterpreted reference is, most amazingly and by all evidence, the 55-millimeter IWC Big Pilot's "Heritage" watch. Made in titanium and in a limited edition of a mere 100 pieces, this timepiece is so large that it is hard to wear on a daily basis. But it will attract the collector for its historic character and its ability to rapidly become a collector's item. On the other hand, the 48-millimeter version, hardly less imposing, is indeed more wearable and the IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII, with a diameter of 40 millimeters and an automatic caliber, is the one that achieves the greatest consensus and may also be the one with the greatest commercial potential. It was inspired from models from the 1950s, fits any situation and will definitely seduce fans of beautiful vintage pieces.
Retro-futurism as DNA
The future of some companies is essentially linked to the way the designers work or rework the codes from the past. At Panerai, these codes are a little difficult to borrow because the design and the lines of the models are extremely powerful and that is what captivates the devotees of the company. And so they did not redo the cases, this year, but rather, just for this time, the dials, which many of the fans also thought were untouchable. And because this style is pleasing to many, Baume & Mercier came up with a second version of its Capeland Shelby® Cobra (front image) watch for this season. It is inspired from the previous version but knows how to play with contemporary codes. This reference, driven by an automatic caliber known for its robustness, is sure to grab the fans of watches with a strong identity and able to blend the present and the past with a sense of balance, which is where its success lies.