The number of independent brands to join the Carré des Horlogers family at SIHH increased this year, jumping from eight to 13. The five newest members are Grönefeld, Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps (MCT), Ressence, Romain Jerome and Speake-Marin.

Independent brands are generally perceived to be freer to make more daring choices with their approach to horology, and the presentations during SIHH cemented that belief.

An example of creative watchmaking was demonstrated this year by H. Moser & Cie. The brand presented a range of beautiful watches, including the Heritage Tourbillon and the Swiss Alp Watch Minute Retrograde, the latter of which featured a movement created by Hautlence, its sister brand. However, it was H. Moser & Cie’s “Swiss Mad” watch, boasting a case made out of real Swiss cheese and straps out of cowhide, that stole the spotlight. The timepiece is priced at 1,081,291 Swiss francs (HK$8.33 million), refering to the date the Swiss Federal Charter was signed, on August 1, 1291.

The watch is the brand’s way of protesting the decision to allow only timepieces with 60 per cent or more Swiss-made components to be eligible for the Swiss-made label. The brand argues that this is not exclusive enough, citing that over 95 per cent of H. Moser & Cie’s components are Swiss made.

Another playful watch was the Maestro from Christophe Claret, available in a grade 5 titanium version with blue accents, and a 5N pink gold version with red accents. Both versions are limited to 88 pieces.

A little whimsical function, dubbed MEMO, is located between 3 and 4 o’clock. The cone-shaped display function is a nod to the time-honoured practice of tying a knot in a handkerchief as a way of remembering to do something.

A pusher at 2 o’clock swivels the cone round to display either a diamond or a blue or red triangle at the front – depending on whether the wearer is setting or resetting the function – to remind the wearer of a task.

Another watch that made the rounds on social media was the Horological Machine No. 7 Aquapod from MB&F, a brand best-known for producing wildly fantastical creations. Inspired by the jellyfish, the watch mimics the aquatic creature’s appearance, as well as its ability to glow in the dark. Its long winding rotor, crafted from a solid block of titanium, is reminiscent of a jellyfish’s tentacles.

The timepiece mimics the anatomy of a jellyfish by merging two dome-shaped sapphire crystals in the middle using a metal case band. A tourbillon is centrally located at the top of the sapphire crystal domed case. A unidirectional ceramic bezel seemingly floats around it. The Aquapod is limited to 33 pieces in grade 5 titanium and 66 pieces in 5N+ red gold. HYT presented the Skull Pocket, a pocket watch that opens up to reveal a skull paired with its patented microfluidic module. When the crown at 5 o’clock is pushed, a microgenerator produces electricity, which is used to illuminate the skull’s outline, made of a capillary tube, with green fluid. The amount of green liquid corresponds with the numbers on the dial to tell the hour.

HYT, from the very first day, [has been] a combination of the traditional and ... contemporary science
Grégory Dourde, CEO, HYT

“HYT, from the very first day, [has been] a combination of the traditional and ... contemporary science,” says Grégory Dourde, CEO of HYT, explaining the brand’s desire to pair the cutting-edge nature of the microfluidic module with the traditional appeal of pocket watches.

“We wanted to have a contemporary interpretation of the pocket watch.” The Skull Pocket, which comes with a titanium case and chain, is limited to eight pieces.

Speake-Marin also showed off an avant-garde creation, Crazy Skulls, and marked the first time the brand combined a minute repeater carillon, tourbillon and an animation function.

Two skulls, located at 6 o’clock, are joined at their backs, facing in opposite directions, thereby forming a heart shape. When the minute-repeater function is activated, the skulls pull apart and the Roman numeral XII, located at 12 o’clock, breaks apart, revealing a tourbillon. The timepiece comes in two versions, with either black or grey skulls, both of which are unique pieces.

Sophisticated watches with understated elegance were also unveiled at SIHH. The leading example was from Laurent Ferrier which presented the Galet Classic Tourbillon Double F, a beautifully minimalist watch with tourbillon.

The brand, well known for its sleek watches, debuted a 41mm timepiece with a tourbillon shown at 6 o’clock – a first for the brand, which previously preferred closed dials. The tourbillon is left in its original position, facing the wrist. The tourbillon cage displayed on the dial has been worked on to open it up, so it can be admired from both the front and the back. Ressence also produced a sleek, minimalist timepiece, the Type 12 (Squared). The timepiece is billed as its first dress watch, and is a step away from what we usually expect from the brand. The watch is smaller and cushion-shaped, a first for Ressence.

The case is made of polished stainless steel with a satin finished case back, instead of grade 5 titanium. There is no sapphire case back, but there is a retractable lever at the back that wearers can use to set the time. Four dial versions are available: silver, ruthenium, night blue and Champagne.

Urwerk celebrated its 20th anniversary this year with the UR-T8, its first ever transformable timepiece. The timepiece, powered by a self-winding UR 8.01 calibre with 50 hours of power reserve, can be lifted and flipped over to conceal the dial and reveal a grade 5 titanium cover. The cover features a textured pattern and also provides an alternative aesthetic. Time is read from an updated version of Urwerk’s signature wandering-hour indication.

MCT unveiled a timepiece – the Sequential One - S110 Evo Vantablack – made using the blackest material ever produced. The timepiece, made in collaboration wi-th artist Anish Kapoor, uses Vantablack, a material made up of carbon nanotubes only one millionth of a millimetre in thickness, but which absorb 99.965 per cent of light. Vantablack is used on the dial and on one of the minutes hands shaped like a moon. The effect is like an optical illusion, with the movement appearing to float in the air. The 45mm by 45mm timepiece is limited to 10 pieces and each is signed by Kapoor.

Romain Jerome presented its Eyjafjallajökull-DNA – Burnt Lava timepiece, a 99-piece limited edition paying tribute to the Icelandic volcano it is named after, and which features lava rock. The 46mm timepiece boasts a dial that pairs lava rock with red and yellow cold enamel, replicating the look of lava fissures. The dial is encased within a black-PVD coated steel case and bezel, and is powered by a Swiss-made mechanical self-winding movement.