Affordability and Innovation Are Stars of the Show

The 12 Best Watches of SIHH 2018

January 19, 2018 Features By Photo by Henry Phillips

This guide covers the best watches released at SIHH 2018. You can read our other SIHH 2018 coverage here, or skip right to the best watches below.


SIHH, or the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève, is an invite-only showcase of high-end watchmaking that happens every January in Geneva, Switzerland. The host is Richemont, a $50 billion luxury goods holding company based in Switzerland. It owns many brands you’ve likely heard of, including Panerai, Vacheron Constantin and Montblanc. Also present at SIHH, however, are a select number of similarly minded watchmakers that do not belong to the group. These include Parmigiani Fleurier, Ressence and FP Journe, among others.

While highly complex and ornate timepieces are often the focal point of SIHH, Gear Patrol attended this year’s show with a specific focus on one, the watches we think best embody affordability and potential newcomers to higher end watches, and two, noteworthy watches pushing the boundaries of watchmaking, even if they’re potentially or completely unattainable due to price or availability; concepts, for example, offer novel ideas of what may affect future watches and are great ways to see the highest level of craftsmanship and watchmaking skills.

A Note On Affordability: While the term “affordable” varies widely, it’s important to consider context. Watches at SIHH often exceed five and even six-figure price points. We consider both the overall price and a “typical” price for a particular maison (brand) when we consider what’s affordable. It’s not a perfect science, but we feel this method best caters to you, the Gear Patrol reader, and your interests.

Additional contribution by Eric Yang.

The Best Watches of SIHH 2018

Best New Watch: Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Self-Winding Steel

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Why It Matters: Vacheron Constantin debuted an entirely new collection called FiftySix, inspired by Vacheron’s own watch (ref. 6073) originally released in 1956. The most important piece in the collection is also the simplest. It features just time, date and an automatic movement. More notable, though, is that it’s the most affordable timepiece Vacheron has ever released, priced at $11,700.

Who It’s For: Vacheron Constantin is clearly positioning their new piece towards newer, younger buyers. That’s a good thing. If you’ve ever wanted a Vacheron, or a timepiece in the so-called “holy trinity” — Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe — then you know it would typically cost you around $20,000. With the FiftySix Self Winding Steel, however, more buyers will realistically consider coming into the Vacheron family. Another upside is the everyday utility of a steel watch. This can easily fill a massive tentpole in a small-watch collection by being dressy, yet something you’ll feel comfortable wearing day in and day out.

Insight: The caliber in the FiftySix Self-Winding Steel ($11,700) is completely hand finished by Vacheron Constantin, but actually sourced from Richemont. Higher-end pieces within the FiftySix collection, such as the power reserve and Complete Calendar, use Vacheron’s own movements. There’s been a macro trend in the past few years towards watch brands using movements developed in-house, but the appeal of a lower price point and real-world versatility of a steel Vacheron Constantin will simply outweigh the desire or need for an in-house movement.

Key Specs: $11,700, 40mm diameter, 9.6mm thick

Best Updated Watch: IWC Portugieser Chronograph “150 Years” Chronograph Blue Dial

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Why It Matters: IWC is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the introduction of the Jubilee collection, a massive series of special edition watches from IWC’s litany of model lines. While there are tons of great models, the Portugieser Chronograph is the standout. It offers the same vintage details as the rest of the collection in a relatively accessible (with 4,000 examples made) and wearable package.

Who It’s For: Individuals who want a high-end chronograph that’s dressier than a Speedster, Autavia, etc. The Portuguese Chronograph is so well-rounded, in fact, that it could work as an everyday timepiece for both dressy and casual situations.

Insight: The lacquered dial and printed numerals are the visual highlights but the watch is the first in the Portuguese collection to feature the brand’s new in-house 69000 chronograph movement, making it more special than the old Valjoux 7750-based model. For that reason, we think it might become a future classic, especially given the limited production.

Key Specs: $7,150, 41mm diameter, 30-meter water resistance

Best Affordable Watch: Panerai Luminor Logo Collection

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Why It Matters: This is Panerai’s new entry-level collection. For the first time, it’s using an in-house caliber (called the p.6000) — a hand-wound movement with a three-day power reserve. Not only does this collection offer a lot of value for money for would-be Panerai owners, but it also marks the first time the brand’s entire collection of watches is powered by in-house movements. That’s quite a feat, considering that when Panerai started selling to the public in the ’90s, its entire lineup used ETA-based calibers.

Who It’s For: People who want a Panerai, or larger watch, but aren’t ready to bite the bullet on the brand’s pricier and specialized offerings. It’s also a great affordable alternative to buyers looking at other luxury divers (think Seamaster, Submariner, etc.).

Insight: While two iterations are available – a two-hand Base Model and the small seconds Luminor Marina — there’s a charming purity for the two-hander (early Panera’s also only had two hands). The Base model also offers a $250 price savings over the Marina. All watches in the collections are 44mm (big) and water resistant to 100 meters (10 bars).

Key Specs: $4,750+, 44mm diameter, 100-meter water resistance

Best Everyday Watch: Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic

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Why It Matters: Baume & Mercier has always focused on accessible luxury, but the new Baumatic might be the truest expression of that ethos. It features a silicon escapement and balance wheel, which gives it some superlative specs for a watch in its price range: a five-day power reserve, COSC-level accuracy, magnetic resistance to 1,500 gauss and an extended service interval (over the industry standard of five years). Better yet, you can get it for $2,790.

Who It’s For: Buyers who want a nice mechanical watch but aren’t willing to pay more than a few thousand dollars and don’t want the hassle of frequent service intervals. This will make an excellent everyday timepiece for a lot of people.

Insight: This movement should promise to be incredibly hassle-free. The long power reserve means you can take the watch off for a while without worrying about resetting it, the COSC-level accuracy (you can also get a COSC-certified model for $200 more) will mean adjustments will be few and far in-between, and the magnetic resistance means you’ll very likely never have to worry about it running fast due to magnetism. Having the service period lengthened is also excellent, especially for new owners not used to the maintaining a high-end mechanical timepiece.

Key Specs: $2,750, 40mm diameter, 50-meter water resistance

Best Overall Watch Design: Cartier Santos

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Why It Matters: The original Santos debuted in 1904 and is considered by the brand to be one of the first dedicated pilot’s watches and first men’s wristwatches ever made. In short, the reintroduction of this model is a big deal for Cartier. The new Santos has a sleeker case design than the last iteration of the watch and comes affixed to an innovative new bracelet. It boasts a quick-change system that allows owners to swap in leather bracelets within seconds, as well as a “SmartLink” system that detaches links at a push of a button, allowing for easy bracelet resizing and alleviating a notoriously frustrating process.

Who It’s For: Cartier’s Art Deco leanings might indicate an aim at an older clientele, but in recent year the brand’s strategy has been to appeal more towards stylish young men by modernizing its lineup. It’s working.

Insight: The Santos comes in four variations: all-steel, two-tone (steel and yellow gold), pink-gold or yellow-gold. And, it’s available in two sizes: medium (35.1mm wide) and large (39.8mm wide). One of our favorite pieces was the medium variant in stainless steel. It’s the entry-point to the collection at just $6,250 and looks the most reserved on the wrist.

Key Specs: $6,250+, 35.1mm or 39.8mm wide, automatic movement

Best Modern Watch Design: Hermès Carré H

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Why It Matters: While many new watches today take inspiration from 20th-century models (or at least 20th-century design principles), the Hermès Carré H feels refreshingly modern. The Carré isn’t a new watch per se — it’s based on a limited edition model from 2010 designed by French designer Marc Berthier (only 1,973 were made and it cost about $15,000). This new model has the same basic look but swaps the original’s titanium case for steel, upsizes the original’s 36.5mm width to 38mm and adds a new dial design. It’s no limited edition, though, and the price is substantially slashed to a much more reasonable $7,725.

Who It’s For: Hermès watches seemingly appeal to younger watch enthusiasts as their timepieces mary traditional watchmaking (this piece uses an Hermès-exclusive automatic, for example) with cutting-edge designs. Basically, the kind of people already buying Nomos watches.

Insight: The Carré H gives off some Apple Watch vibes, but do note that this watches is based on a design that came out five years before the Apple Watch’s actual debut. It goes to show that square and rectangular silhouettes seem to be hallmarks of modern watch design, so if that’s your thing, the Carré H is a great option. Want to spend less? The Tetra from Nomos offers similar vibes in a more affordable package.

Key Specs: $7,725, 38mm width, 30-meter water resistance

Best Vintage Reissue: Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox

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Why It Matters: The Polaris Memovox is a reissue of an iconic timepiece Jaeger-LeCoultre only made in 1968. It’s a 42mm diver featuring a rarely-seen mechanical alarm complication, and Jaeger-LeCoultre did an excellent job of recapturing the classic look of the original. While the Polaris Memorex is a limited edition watch (1,000 pieces), it will, more importantly, usher in a new lineup of sports watches based on the Polaris, including a three-hand automatic, a date model and a couple of chronographs. For a brand whose lineup is mostly comprised of dressy pieces, it’s an essential addition.

Who It’s For: People looking for a luxury dive watch that want something different than a Rolex Submariner. The Memorex will also likely appeal to vintage collectors and watch enthusiasts who love a less-obvious icon.

Insight: Given that the Polaris Memovox costs $12,600 and will only come in a run of 1,000 pieces, the simpler date and automatic models are worth considering as alternatives (they start at $6,600). They don’t boast the Memorex’s 200-meter depth rating (come on, when’s the last time you actually took a dive watch that deep?), but they do have the same design elements: the rotating bezel, the vanilla-hued lume, the double crowns.

Key Specs: $12,600, 42mm diameter, 200-meter water resistance

Best Ultrathin Watch: Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic 910P

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Why It Matters: High-end watch brands continue to chase records for thin watches, and so far Piaget is leading the charge. Coming in at a scant 4.3mm thick, the Altiplano Ultimate Automatic is the thinnest automatic in the world, eclipsing previous record holder, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra-Thin Automatique, by 0.85mm. Piaget was able to achieve this by integrating the movement’s baseplate into the case, rather than having the case encapsulate a separate movement like in a conventional watch. It also used a “peripheral rotor,” a winding ring that surrounds the movement.

Who It’s For: Enthusiasts who love impossibly-thin watches and individuals looking for a dress watch that makes a statement. In either case, you couldn’t do much better than this.

Insight: Make no mistake, the Altiplano Ultimate Automatic is an impressive piece, but it’s so thin that it practically disappears into your wrist when you wear it. Thus it’s great for fancy affairs but probably not suitable for everyday life.

Key Specs: $26,000+, 41mm diameter, 4.3mm thick

Best Affordable Complication Watch: Montblanc 1858 Geosphere

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Why It Matters: The Geosphere is a unique take on the world time watch: it features two globes representing the northern and southern hemispheres that turn denoting the hour of the day for each part of the world. (There’s also an additional dual-time function, too.) But while many world timers have a sort of crusty, extravagant air to them, Montblanc wisely encased this complication in a handsome, rugged case and gave the watch a simple, vintage-inspired dial, thus widening its appeal to younger buyers.

Who It’s For: The brand is trying to tap into Minerva’s mountaineering history to build watches that appeal to adventurous types, but in the end, any frequent traveler will appreciate the usefulness of the Geosphere’s dual time and world time functions.

Insight: World time watches are very pricey, but with an approximate $6,300 price tag the Geosphere presents a pretty solid value, considering its unique configuration. What’s also exciting about the Geosphere is its pared-down dial design, a departure for the world time complication.

Key Specs: ~$6,300, 42mm diameter, 100-meter water resistance

Best High Complication Watch: A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split

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Why It Matters: A Lange’s new Triple Split is one of the most advanced mechanical chronographs we’ve ever seen. It takes the traditional split-seconds function of the traditional rattrapante and expands it, allowing the wearer to record and compare two times simultaneously up to 12-hours long (in short, it splits seconds, minutes and hours). The Triple Split is the only watch in the world that can do this — other rattrapantes can only compare the difference between two times if they’re within seconds of each other.

Who It’s For: Any watch fanatic who is fortunate enough to afford to spend $147,000 on a watch. Otherwise, its something for every other watch enthusiast to longingly gawk at.

Insight: Lange’s watches seem poised to either hold or appreciate in value on the secondary market, and this is no different. Given that it’s a limited piece (just 100 examples exist) and has one of the brand’s most innovative movements ever, the Triple Split appears to be a sound investment as far as modern watches go.

Key Specs: $147,000, 43.2mm diameter, 15.6mm thick

Best Concept Watch: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar

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Why It Matters: A 6.3mm-thick watch is impressive any way you slice it, but the fact that the RD#2 is a perpetual calendar — one of watchmaking’s most complex movements — is all the more mind-blowing. Audemars Piguet had to devise some clever solutions to slim the watch down, most notably integrating a cam and gear into one piece for the calendar function. This innovation should hopefully trickle down into future Audemars Piguet products.

Who It’s For: The RD#2 should excite Royal Oak fans as well as lovers of watches with high complications, but unfortunately, this is just a concept for now.

Insight: As previously mentioned, there’s a good chance this tech should make its way into future Audemars Piguet watches, so at the very least you can get excited about some future super-thins from the brand. If you can’t wait, or just really want a thin perpetual calendar watch, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar is a solid replacement at just 8.1mm thick.

Key Specs: 41mm diameter, 6.3mm thick, 950 platinum case

Best Watch Innovation: Ressence Type 2 e-Crown

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Why It Matters: The Ressence e-Crown is one of a few watches to utilize electronic augmentation to enhance a mechanical movement. Inside the watch has a microcomputer that references the time set by the wearer, then constantly self-regulates so that when the watch stops it will automatically know the correct time to reset to when you start it back up again. It’s a ground-breaking new technology, and we hope other brands take notice and implement their own systems like this in the future.

Who It’s For: Ressence’s watches have always seemed to appeal to people with unconventional tastes, so the e-Crown should handily satisfy them.

Insight: The e-Crown is said to be just a concept now, but a production version should be on the horizon later this year. If you’re into the e-Crown’s funky dial configuration and graphics, the entire Ressence lineup has a similar look. But considering the innovations inside, we think this is one is worth the wait.

Key Specs: 45mm diameter, titanium case, automatic winding