Innovation in mechanical watchmaking is alive and well—bursting at the springs in fact—as we saw at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (often referred to as SIHH). Few people “need” a fine mechanical timepiece, though the desire to own a mechanical work of art is something that no digital smartwatch can satisfy. The artisans at the top of their game continue to create complications that no one else has thought of (or been able to realize), decorative finishes and embellishments that few can master and those leveraging modern tools like CAD and material innovations more common in Formula 1 and aerospace design. Here are six that caught our attention and demonstrate the imagination and capabilities of the best in the business.
Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux
As the name would imply, mystery rests at the core of the magnificent Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux. What makes this watch mysterious? Almost all of the movement is suspended between three transparent sapphire crystal discs, shifting the movement in a circular rotation every hour. There is a sensation that the mechanics within the watch float while shifting in time. This movement has been built in house by Cartier, and features 408 parts and three new patents on the technology within.
Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Nuit Lumineuse
Once again, Van Cleef & Arpels have unveiled a visually stunning piece that looks to the stars for inspiration. Two years after the watch world fell for their Midnight Planétarium, the luxury brand returns with a dial featuring a a diamond constellation that is lit from below thanks to a first-of-a-kind piezomechanical mechanism. When a button at 8 o’clock on the watch’s case is pressed the movement passes energy through a ceramic strip, causing it to vibrate, creating an electric current that powers the LED light source to illuminate the diamonds set above it. Those diamonds form the unicorn constellation (or Monoceros), a muse seen in earlier work by the company. This new patent holds all kinds of potential for the brand to explore.
Piaget Emperador Coussin XL 700P
Regardless of your opinion of Quartz movements, Piaget executes the uncommon with their new Piaget Emperador Coussin XL 700P. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of their first ever in-house Quartz movement, the brand unveiled a limited edition hybrid piece that matches a mechanical movement with a Quartz “generator.” Visually, the timepiece matches elegance with muscle. But within, the duo of an ultra-thin mechanical movement and a quartz regulator demonstrate a mastery of two distinct forms of watchmaking. Of course, this was aimed at delivering a high degree of time-telling accuracy, but it’s also an acknowledgement of the importance Quartz plays in the watchmaking world as a whole.
Montblanc 4810 Twinfly Chronograph 110 Years Edition
There’s a lot at play within Montblanc’s 4810 Twinfly Chronograph 110 Years Edition. First, there’s an in-house developed TwinFly chronograph feature powered by a new column-wheel driven movement (the Manufacture Calibre MB LL100.1). It’s their most readable yet, but when coupled with a 24-hour display with day and night indication and a small world map subdial, it’s the sum of all the parts that makes this piece so forward-thinking.
H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Concept
One theme we were happy to see trickling back into trend was simpler, smaller and less visually assaulting timepieces. The award for discreet innovation most certainly goes to this master of minimalism. Where others shout, the latest from H. Moser is a white gold series limited to ten very lucky owners who don’t need the flash, the oversized, the labels to convey their sense of style. Smirking ever so genteelly, they’ll quietly ponder the simple face of their Perpetual Calendar Concept, lacking even a second hand, and congratulate themselves on their excellent taste.
Roger Dubuis Black Velvet
While the technical innovation in Roger Dubuis’ new Black Velvet watch doesn’t sound as impressive as most, there is a patented gemsetting technique at play and Dubuis is the first in the watch world to set stones directly into carbon fiber. Those stones, by the way, are very rare Paraiba tourmalines, which hail from a single Brazilian mine and feature beautiful green-blue hues. To make this watch special the brand crafted very tiny white carbon claws that grasp the gems without restricting any of their flair.
Additional reporting by David Graver; Van Cleef & Arpels image by Cool Hunting, other images courtesy of respective brands