Baume et Mercier may be one of the oldest Swiss manufactures, but the brand has been known for its forward-thinking approach as early as 1869. That year, Louis-Victor Baume, the grandfather of co-founder William Baume, gave his daughter a gold pocket watch as a gift for her communion – a move that was considered quite avant-garde, since women in those days were not expected to manage their time in the way the men did.
The brand may be 185 years old this year but, in Asia, the name is still relatively new. Seizing on the economic slowdown, the brand has only recently begun expanding its presence in the region. “Asia is a priority for Baume et Mercier,” says CEO Alain Zimmermann. “Contrary to other watch brands, our maison is still ‘under construction’ in Asia, so we consider the current troubled period an opportunity for us.”
In the latest edition of Watches&Wonders, Baume et Mercier will combine its heritage – savoir faire in ladies watchmaking – with a focus on Asian culture. It will reveal two new novelties this yearthat appeal to the Asian audience. “[They] were devised as double tributes to Asian heritage, symbolising all the knowledge and skill built up over nearly two centuries of Baume et Mercier watchmaking,” Zimmermann says.
The first novelty is a jade and diamond watch in the Promesse collection. The brand first launched the feminine collection at last year’s edition of the fair. Made for the “modern, independent woman attached to a certain idea of refinement”, Promesse continues to be one of the highlight collections this year. “Results in Asia [for the Promesse] are really encouraging and positive,” Zimmermann says. The jade dial, coupled with the possibility of caseback engraving, gives the watches extra sentimental value.
In Asia, jade is more than just a gemstone. Treated as a talisman with magical powers, jade is often handed down through generations, and given to newborn babies and newlyweds as a symbol for happiness and prosperity. By using the precious stone, Baume et Mercier hopes that its watches can adorn not only the wrists of today’s women, but also can become an heirloom passed down from mother to daughter.
The new jade Promesse features an unusual profile with soft, subtle curves and an oval bezel swirling into a round case, as if a water droplet had fallen onto the dial and created ripples across the jade bezel. At 34mm, the watch is delicate, powered by a Swiss-made quartz movement. The watch is adorned with 61 diamonds, with eight of them marking out the hours, and is complemented by a glossy green alligator strap. Only eight watches are available, and are exclusive to Watches&Wonders.
Also new this year is the 18ct red gold Clifton 1830 five-minute repeater pocket watch. Largely inspired by the company’s historic timepieces from the 19th century, the watch stands as a symbol of Baume et Mercier’s craftsmanship and watchmaking expertise. Sized at 50mm, the pocket watch fits snugly in the palm of the hand, and the red gold case is further enhanced with a polished satin finish, with the skeleton manufacture clearly visible behind the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. A trigger at 4 o’clock activates the resonant chime sounds, with a low note marking the hour and a pair of low and high tones for each elapsed period of five minutes.
Zimmermann believes these two exclusive timepieces will appeal to the Chinese values of heritage and tradition. “These two works of art represent a bridge built across the generations and are yet another sign that Baume et Mercier watches hold priceless sentimental value that transcends fashion and time,” he says.
Earlier this year at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), Baume et Mercier revamped its signature collection, Classima, bringing four new models in the men’s collection and introducing six references in the new Classima women’s collection. Two more creations will be released at Watches&Wonders, one for each of the men’s and women’s collections. The new 36.5mm watch is powered by a Swiss automatic movement that can be seen through the sapphire crystal caseback. The diamond-set bezel and guilloche mother-of-pearl dial is paired with a soft brown alligator strap. The other Classima novelty is the 40mm moonphase. Powered by a Swiss quartz movement, the crescent-shaped moonphase is prominently displayed underneath the 12 o’clock Roman numeral, while a small date window is visible at 6 o’clock.
Remaining loyal to the brand’s positioning while creating watches that are covetable and appealing is Baume et Mercier’s long-term strategy. “[Our] objective is to [create] high-quality watches for both men and women, with a timeless and elegant design at an affordable price with a single purpose,” Zimmermann says. “Baume et Mercier is by essence an initiatory watch.” He adds that it is important to introduce the young generation to luxury watchmaking, and Watches&Wonders offers the perfect opportunity to do so.