Last week, we talked briefly about the Watches & Wonders exhibition and I'd like to throw in a few more of my thoughts on the show. Well, actually, only one thought, on Richard Mille's presentation of its key piece this year. What were you thinking? You had one job! Face palms all round. The traditionally masculine brand declared 2014 as being the Year of the Woman and then this year decided to have what could only be charitably described as burlesque dancers, complete with whips, "provocatively" present the RM69 Erotic Tourbillon (yes, that's what it's really called). It is a very clever piece, technically speaking, but one that is marred by a concept that seems odd, contradictory to previous initiatives and, well, kind of creepy.
Right, I'll get off my soapbox and talk about three stellar pocket watches from the show that are doing things right. First up is the Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 (above), the most complicated watch ever made.
To be clear, this bad boy isn't for sale. It's a one-off, made-to-order piece that has taken three watchmakers eight years to create, but I can't not mention it as it is so incredible it has its own Wikipedia page. Neatly coinciding with VC's 260th anniversary, the 57260 features a record 57 complications and more than 2,800 components (the average mechanical watch has between 100 and 200 components). Among the orgy of complications is a perpetual calendar, a Hebrew calendar, an astronomical calendar, a lunar calendar, a religious calendar … OK, there are a lot of calendars, and too many functions to list. And if you're wondering how it has managed to keep all 57 complications legible, well, this watch is also a beast, with the case measuring 50.55mm in thickness and 98mm in diameter and weighing in at almost a kilo.
Another delight at the exhibition was the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Pocket Instrument (above right). Featuring the four signature balance wheels in each corner and a skeletonised dial, there's a lot of drama to this watch, with depth and movement playing well together. The 60mm titanium case is roomy enough to allow the watch to fully express itself. Despite the complexity of the design and the RD101 movement, the watch itself only shows hours and minutes and a power-reserve indication. The watch comes with a titanium chain and a stand, so it can double as a desk clock. Limited to 28 pieces, prices for the Excalibur Spider Pocket Instrument are available upon request.
Finally, we have a minute repeater pocket watch from Baume and Mercier, the last brand you'd expect to see such a technical flourish from. The Clifton 1830 Five-Minute Repeater (above) is a real step up in quality for Baume and Mercier and a great way to celebrate the brand's 185th anniversary. Featuring a 50mm red-gold case, the watch isn't a minute repeater in the classical sense but more of a chiming watch, and rather rare. Limited to 30 pieces, the Clifton 1830 Five-Minute Repeater is priced at about HK$418,000.