High Watchmaking Puts Its Best on Display

The Best Watches of SIHH 2017


January 23, 2017 Buying Guides By Photo by Eric Yang

Just Updated: Click here to view the Best Watches of SIHH 2018

Last Friday, for the first time ever, the public swarmed into the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH, a luxury watch show in the yawning Palexpo facility in Geneva Switzerland. For one day, they got to wander among a scene before limited to retailers, media, and the occasional millionaire watch collector: a sprawl of booths created by more than 30 of the best watchmakers in the world (many of them under the umbrella of the Richemont Group), showing off their wares. It was a great step to bringing exciting watchmaking into the worldview; it was also a lot to take in.

SIHH is one of two cruxes in the watch world annually — the other being BaselWorld, open to many more brands in an even larger environment, with a slightly lower level of “Haute” — where nearly every new watch of the year is announced. This makes it a well-heeled stew of exciting releases, a crucible of trend-making, and an important meeting place of the movers and shakers in the watchmaking world.

So: for the public not able to swing a roundtrip ticket to Switzerland, our watch team collected its highlights, the watches we either dream of buying or know have made an important statement in watchmaking. Consider them a way to jumpstart your understanding of where watches are headed in 2017.

Previous SIHH Coverage
a href=”https://gearpatrol.com/2018/01/19/best-watches-sihh-2018/”>Best Watches of SIHH 2018Best Watches of SIHH 2016
Best Watches of SIHH 2015
Best Watches of SIHH 2014
Best Watches of SIHH 2013
Best Watches of SIHH 2012

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication


Vacheron Constantin’s booth held a hell of a lot of watchmaking power this year: on one end, their Reference 57260 from last year, the most complicated watch ever made, a 50.5mm-thick chunk of a “pocketwatch” that needs more of a tote bag to carry it; on the other, their new Celestia, a double-dialed watch (front and back) with 23 complications and a relatively thin frame. Its focus — besides cramming an incredible amount of timekeeping tools onto its front and back dials — is on the stars. “Astronomy was definitely a theme we wanted to work on,” said Julien Marchenoir, Vacheron’s strategy and heritage director. “With a few requirements: we wanted to innovate, to bring something state of the art into the market in terms of an astronomical complication, and we wanted to make it a demonstration of mastery… Then it became one of those things where when you start, you never know where it’s going to end.”

The “end” turned out to be telling time not one, but three ways (“civil time,” “solar time,” “sidereal time”) and filling up both the watch’s dials with moonphases, indicators, and charts. And, even though its dials are as crammed with information as the dashboard of a 747, it’s beautiful, too. – Chris Wright

Diameter: 45mm
Movement: Integrated Caliber 3600
A Few of Its Complications: perpetual calendar, tourbillon, moonphase, season indicator, solstice indicator, sunrise and sunset time, tide indicator, zodiac sign indicator, celestial chart

Ressence Type 1 Squared


Ressence has been on the watch aficionados’ radar since it first released the Type 1001 in 2011; their “orbital time-telling” system operates in a series of rotating circles that is best described as spellbinding. The Type 1 Squared returns to the brushed-steel look of the original Type 1, released in 2014 (rather than the pure black look of the oil-filled Type 3, which debuted in 2013) but adds a cushion case with squared-off edges, which is a major departure from the original’s slimly bezeled circular design. It also features a lever on the back of the case that serves as a sort of key to wind the watch and set its time. The result is a dressier watch, with all the quirky charm of the brand’s previous models. – Chris Wright

Diameter: 41mm
Movement: ROCS1 (highly customized self-winding 2824/2 base calibre)
Features: days, hours, minutes, a.m./p.m. indication, seconds
(Photo courtesy of Ressence)

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronometre


In a sea of watches with vintage looks from the ’60s,’70s and ’80s, Parmigiani Fleurier’s revisit of their head designer’s first case, inspired by Greco-Roman columns, has a decidedly 1930s look. Its coin-edged bezel, javelin hands, lengthy date window at six o’clock and open, uncluttered dial creates a clean, sharp aesthetic that, backed up by its COSC-certified PF331 movement, swims successfully against the current of trends. – Chris Wright

Diameter: 41mm
Movement: PF331 (automatic COSC-certified)
Inspired By: Greco-Roman columns
Our Favorite Trends at SIHH 2017


Slate Gray Dials: Vacheron Constantin Celestia, G-P Laureato, Piaget Altiplano, Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860
Yellow Gold: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ultra Thin
Smaller Diameter: Panerai Submersible (42mm), Piaget Altiplano 60 (38mm), G-P Laureato (38mm)

Piaget Altiplano 60


We first heard of the Altiplano 60 in December of 2016. But 2017 marks the true anniversary the watch celebrates: 60 years since Piaget released their 9P movement in 1957. At just 2mm thick, the handwound movement became a workhorse for the brand in many of its iconic, ultrathin dress watches in the 1950s and 1960s. The Altiplano 60, in both 38mm and 43mm, has a vibrant deep blue dial with a crosshair reminiscent of past models. Its movement, the handwound caliber 430P, is 2.1mm thick with a 43-hour power reserve. – Chris Wright

Diameter: 38mm, 43mm
Movement: Caliber 430P
Movement Dimensions: 2.1 x 20.5 mm

MB&F HM7 Aquapod


MB&F launched its first Horological Machine back in 2007. Ten years later they’re on their eighth, which continues the brand’s propensity for futuristic avant-garde watch designs but, for the first time, draws its inspiration from the sea. That’s to say the new HM7 is kind of a dive watch, but with only a 50 meter depth rating and a near-$100,000 price tag we don’t recommend you treat it as such. What initially sticks out about the watch, though, is the rotating bezel. That’s ubiquitous on any diver — but on the HM7 it’s mounted around the case, rather than on top. Another dive-watch hallmark, SuperLumiNova, is also present, illuminating not just the numerals on but the flying tourbillon. Yes, a flying tourbillon in a dive watch. Necessary? No. Awesome? Absolutely. – Andrew Connor

Diameter: 53.8mm
Movement: in-house automatic tourbillon
Case Material: Grade 5 titanium or 18k red gold

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph UTC


In a show characterized by a sea of one-offs worth millions and absurdly complex timepieces, it was nice to see the occasional reasonably priced watch. Granted, a nearly $5,000 watch isn’t exactly an everyman’s timepiece, but you do get a considerable amount of watch for your money with the new TimeWalker Chronograph UTC. Take, for instance, the movement. It’s more-or-less a Valjoux 7754; but it’s also one of the few movements today that features both a chronograph and a GMT. Further, it’s housed in a black DLC–coated stainless steel case with a rotating ceramic bezel, with both perforated rubber and leather straps. For a brand that’s known for dress watches and pens, it’s a solid addition to the lineup.
Andrew Connor

Diameter: 43mm
Movement: Montblanc 25.03
Case Material: DLC-coated stainless steel and ceramic

A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual Pour Le Mérite


A. Lange & Söhne didn’t debut the most complex watch (that’d be Vacheron’s Celestia) at SIHH this year. But the Tourbograph Perpetual Pour Le Mérite is both beautiful and unique. The Pour Le Mérite has its roots in A. Lange’s revival in the early ‘90s — debuted in 1994, it was the first watch to debut a fusée and chain system, a rare complication that feeds a constant amount of energy from the mainspring to the gear train, thus improving accuracy. Over the years, A. Lange has added complications to the watch, but the Tourbograph Perpetual is the most complex yet, with a split-seconds chronograph, a perpetual calendar and a tourbillon thrown in with the fusée system for good measure. The movement is comprised of a mind-boggling 684 components (over 1,300 if you count every piece of the fusée chain) that’s finished to the brand’s impeccable standards. – Andrew Connor

Diameter: 43mm
Movement: Lange Caliber L133.1
Production No.: 50
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Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control


Among all the haute horlogerie pieces that put the “HH” in SIHH, one of the most impressive happened to be one of the most minimalist and affordable. For the 25th anniversary of its Master Control line, Jaeger-LeCoultre showed off three new references, all bewitching, vintage-inspired, watches. Our favorite, the three-hand Master Control Date, comes in a near perfect 39mm case and features a silvery sector dial with blue accents and skeletonized baton hands, powered by an in-house self-winding movement with solid gold rotor. Perhaps best of all, you get this all for a mere $5,700. – Jason Heaton

Diameter: 39mm
Movement: JLC caliber 899/1, 219 components, 38-hour power reserve, solid gold winding rotor
Price: $5,700

Cartier Drive de Cartier Extra Flat


Last year’s Drive de Cartier was a new shape for brand that has made its name inventing new shapes for watches. But this year’s Extra-Flat perfects the form, shrinking the package ever so slightly to 38mm and slimming it down to a remarkable 6.6mm in height. This latter dimension comes thanks to a handwound caliber borrowed from Richemont stablemate and thin watch specialist, Piaget, that is classically hidden behind the solid case back. Lacking even a sweep seconds hand, the Drive de Cartier Extra Flat is an exercise in restraint and a purely elegant dress watch. The white gold version is limited to 200 pieces. – Jason Heaton

Diameter: 38mm
Movement: 430MC (based on Piaget 430P)
Height: 6.6mm

Girard-Perregaux Laureato 42mm


Girard-Perregaux made its return to SIHH this year, after a few years in the wilderness that is Baselworld, by showing off one of its iconic watches. The Laureato, which traces its roots to 1975, is now available in 34mm, 38mm and 42mm cases, with a number of in-house movements, including quartz. The big one features the new self-winding calibre GP01800 that is sized to fit the larger case. The trademark octagonal bezel is a study in finishing, with alternating satin and polished surfaces, and the Clou de Paris dial catches light differently depending on how you look at it. The Laureato is available in titanium, steel or a titanum and rose gold version that proves that two-tone can look as good in 2017 as it did in 1975. – Jason Heaton

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: GP 01800-0008
Case Materials titanium, steel or titanium/rose gold

Officine Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic, 42mm


While the news of Officine Panerai’s partnership with the America’s Cup as well as new “LAB-ID” piece that uses newly developed advancements in carbon and case design dominated the airwaves, it’s worth noting that with the introduction of six new Luminor Submersible 1950 models, Panerai has completed its journey to bringing in-house movements to all their pieces — in this case the Caliber Ref P.9010 movement. Even cooler is the fact that Panerai also quietly introduced an “everyday” sized 42mm Submersible. Now, you’re either someone that loves Panerai watches or doesn’t, and if you love Panerais the Submersible is a bit of a polarizing watch. The Submersible has always appealed to me in a “great on others, but not me” — the Submersible arguably wears the largest among Panerai’s bruisers — but a 2mm reduction in size does wonders for how this watch wears and looks. It’s available in two variants, Officine Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Acciaio (steel) and Oro Rosso (18K red gold). – Eric Yang

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: P.9010 calibre
Previously Available in: 44mm

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ultra Slim in Yellow Gold


AP sure knows how to celebrate an anniversary. Continuing its celebration of 40 years since AP first introduced precious metals to the iconic Royal Oak, AP has gilded the Ultra-Thin (ref 15202), a.k.a. “Jumbo,” in ravishing yellow gold. The effect is an evocative bruiser that’s irresistible on the wrist. This piece sizes up at 39mm with a throwback logo at the six o’clock position and features AP’s Caliber 2121 movement, which dates back to the original Royal Oak. There are two tapisserie dials available: one in champagne and one in AP’s signature blue with matching color date discs, an especially nice touch that brings a certain seamlessness to the watch face. We were told that the blue here has been slightly adjusted to take into account the effect of the blue’s contrast on yellow gold. Audemars Piguet already had a fan favorite on their hand with the Jumbo, with this new piece, AP just offered up a wide, warm, yellow gold embrace to a new class of fans. – Eric Yang

Diameter: 39mm
Movement: caliber 2121 automatic
Dials: champagne, blue
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