Now that SIHH 2017 has come and gone, lets take a look at some of our favorite new watches. But first, what is SIHH?
SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) is one of the two big watch shows in Switzerland that happens every year (Baselworld is the other). SIHH began in the early 90’s with it’s first show in 1992 when 5 brands left Baselworld to set it up: Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Piaget, Gerald Genta, and Daniel Roth. Today the show has grown to 30 exhibitors. As such, the quality of the watches revealed has also grown immensely, which is never a bad thing.
Cartier Drive Extra Flat - Why not start with a Cartier? First, Cartier was among the first to start up SIHH and second, the Drive Extra Flat is actually quite good! Cartier has always had great design. As a jewelry company, in other words, this is definitely a strong attribute. However, traditionally where Cartier has been weak is with movement manufacturing. This is critical because regardless of what some people would want you to believe, the most important part of any watch is the movement. Without it, its not a watch. The Drive Extra Flat uses Cartier’s version of Piaget’s 430P, which they’ve named calibre 430MC. The icing on the cake, and the main reason why they chose not to use their own 1904MC in-house movement (which is actually quite good), is case size, which has been reduce to a perfect 39mm and a thickness of just 6.6mm. This is reduced from the usual 40mm diameter and nearly 12mm thickness. Cartier also simplified the dial removing the central guilloché section as well as the date. Our only complaint is that we wish there was a steel version available. A steel version would have made this a great great value.
Jaeger LeCoultre Master Control, Chronograph, Geographic - speaking of great values, there is no better bang-for-your-buck (outside of Seiko), than anything made by Jaeger LeCoultre. JLC is considered the “best of the rest” after the Swiss Holy Trinity of Patek, Vacheron and Audemars. However, technically speaking, they are equals. Not only does JLC actually make a lot of parts for the top 3, but the truth is JLC lags behind (for a serious lack of a better term), only once you climb up to the $150k+ range. At that level, the Holy Trinity takes decorating and finishing to a whole other level. Of course, A Lange and Sohne is a notch above those four as well, but the point is JLC is easily a traditional top-5 brand.
And what we love the most about JLC that the others in the Top 5 absolutely do not do is they make a lot more watches in steel. This means there are many fabulous options under $10k, hence the “best bacg-for-your-buck” description. It is really really hard to find a watch at the same price point as the JLC watches under $10k-$15k that can compete. Seiko does, the Speedmaster of course does, and maybe some other individual models from IWC, Zenith and even Rolex do, but in general terms it’s impossible.
This year they not only introduced 3 gorgeous watches in their Master Collection, but they also reduce the price! In other words, while many/all other brands are moving away from the market, JLC is coming back to it. We have zero complaints regarding these 3 watches. The movement, the overall size, the dial design (including hands), is all gorgeous and if it were from any other brand, the price would easily be double and no one would even blink. All you have to is decide which version suits you best.
IWC Da Vinci line - As mentioned just above, IWC would rank behind JLC as a brand, but just barely. IWC is a technical powerhouse. They compete with them best of the best at the highest level of watchmaking (Grande Complications), and their history is filled with innovations and icons. If there is a criticism with IWC is that sometimes their watches seem to be priced a little high, and the Da Vinci collection was never really “loved”. This year they are trying hard to make us love the Da Vinci collection, and the watches they released are not only technical power houses, but are really quite beautiful. For IWC the question will be if they’ve been priced right (or you can just wait to pick on e up on the pre-owned market in a couple years).
Vacheron Constantin - This year, as has been a pattern the past couple years, Vacheron Constantin has come out punching at the absolute highest level of watchmaking. They are flexing muscles in an obscene way and all of their watches are masterpieces. This year VC released (among others) the Les Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860 and the Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication. Both are stunning in every way, and both are expensive. The price? One. Million. Dollars!
Lange 31 - At the top we mentioned that A Lange & Sohne are arguably the greatest watch manufacturer of the present time. Even greater than Patek or Vacheron, etc. and this year their exclamation point (in our opinion), is the Lange 31. To be sure, all of the ALS watches released this year could be considered an exclamation point, but the new dial on this Lange 31 has really taken a watch that has been around for nearly a decade to a whole new level. It has a patented constant-force escapement that continuously delivers uniform torque. This ingenious mechanism located between the mainspring barrel and the going train, assures the ultimate in precision. The new design variation in white gold with a grey dial is limited to 100 watches.
Here’s hoping Baselworld will provide with a few more worthy watches.