Homage to history

Watchmaker's CEO says new tourbillon is enough to turn 'the heads of haute horlogerie aficionados', writesPin Lee

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 5:55pm

Baume & Mercier only came to prominence in 1988 when it became part of the Richemont Group, but it has long been a favourite with connoisseurs, and its roots run deep.

Baume & Mercier's history dates back to 1830, when brothers Louis-Victor and Joseph-Célestin Baume opened their watchmaking business in the Jura region of Switzerland, where its reputation soon grew for creating timepieces with state-of-the art innovations. This eventually led company director William Baume to a fellow visionary, Paul Mercier.

Together they founded Baume & Mercier in 1918, with Baume handling the technical aspects and Mercier taking charge of design and the commercial side of the business. They established a fully-fledged manufacture in Geneva, making top-quality watches and movements that were exported to the United States.

Today, it is a luxury brand known for its refined complications, the use of precious materials and superlative technical achievements. CEO Alain Zimmermann is eager to take advantage of Watches&Wonders to showcase the brand's watchmaking skills in Asia.

"Asia is definitely a sophisticated and well-developed market for luxury watches," he says. "There are many connoisseurs and collectors who truly appreciate and look forward to having a world-class luxury watch exhibition in the region. The high watchmaking industry, all over the world, has seen important developments in recent years. Not only is there an increasing number of collectors, but also greater visibility of this luxury segment in the media."

Baume & Mercier will unveil an entirely new tourbillon from its famous Clifton collection in Hong Kong - the Clifton 1892 Flying Tourbillon.

Zimmermann says the watch "is a milestone of the brand's development. This new watch will remind the world that Baume & Mercier, the seventh-oldest watch manufacturer in the world, has true expertise in the art of making accurate and complicated watches."

He believes the Asian market is ready for haute horlogerie because consumers in Asia are "well-educated, well-travelled and have a global vision". The Clifton collection, launched last year, was inspired by a timepiece from the 1950s, a period considered as the golden age of the wristwatch.

The Clifton 1892 Flying Tourbillon pays homage to the achievements of the Baume & Mercier maison of the 19th century, in which it won 10 grand prix and seven gold medals at international exhibitions in Paris, Melbourne, Zurich, Amsterdam, London and Chicago, and prizes in chronometry competitions in the 20th century for the quality of its construction and the aesthetics of its creations. Baume watches also set accuracy records in time-keeping competitions, particularly the trials run by the Kew Observatory near London. In 1893, Baume earned the highest score in the competition with a split-second chronograph, a record that remained unbeaten until over a decade later. The Clifton 1892 Flying Tourbillon, in a limited edition of 30 pieces, is also an example of Baume & Mercier's excellence in the art of établissage, an ancient watchmaking practice dating back to before the start of the first manufacture in the Jura region. It is driven by a manually wound mechanical calibre controlled by a flying tourbillon produced by ValFleurier.

Its high-quality finishes, visible through the transparent sapphire glass, include a winding ratchet wheel inspired by those on traditional pocket watches, the "Côtes de Genève" decorations on the bridges, and beading on the main plate.

An opening at 9 o'clock in the silvered opaline dial, with its riveted appliqué 18ct red gold numerals, offers a view of the delicate flying tourbillon carriage rotating once every minute, unobstructed by any bridge. The watch has a power reserve of 50 hours. In creating the case for this large calibre, Baume & Mercier's design studio made sure that this generously proportioned watch - at 45.5mm - fits perfectly on the wrist. The chevée-shaped glass and curved lugs give a refined elegance to the studied style of the piece, complemented by a hand-sewn alligator strap closed by a buckle. It's enough to turn "the heads of haute horlogerie aficionados", says Zimmermann, who adds that Baume & Mercier customers appreciate quality watchmaking at an accessible price. "Our last Clifton collection perfectly illustrates our know-how in this domain - a completely mechanical collection with magnificent small complications at affordable prices.

"Asia represents high potential for our maison, but beyond the market size, it is more the compatibility of the values of our brand with those of Asia, which explains our confidence.

"There is our heritage, which can be read as a true family saga; our Swiss origin, synonymous with credibility and watchmaking legitimacy; our know-how, which is translated day after day into outstanding quality; and, of course, our classic style, ideal to celebrate the important moments in life - there are so many assets to seduce the Asian customer."