SIHH director Fabienne Lupo is upbeat about the future of watchmaking, saying: “The very existence of independent ‘new school’ watchmaking proves that the industry is driven by new ideas. It shows that fine watchmaking isn’t stuck in the past, but instead a highly innovative segment”.
One of the five newcomers to Carré des Horlogers is Armin Strom, a 21-person company that produces around 600 timepieces per year.
“Chronometry is very important; we are really pushing chronometry,” says Claude Greisler, CEO and technical director of Armin Strom. And Pure Resonance walks the talk: thanks to the double balance working in resonance, its accuracy is approximately 15 per cent to 20 per cent better than the COSC standard (-4/+6 seconds per day).
“But the Resonance technology is not only about timekeeping measured once per day – the main advantage of double balances in resonance is you cut the peaks of deviation, thus you have a much flatter curve,” explains Greisler, who has just signed with Hong Kong partner Swiss Prestige.
Another welcome addition to the Carré des Horlogers is Ferdinand Berthoud, owned by Chopard. Named after one of the great 18th-century marine chronometer makers, the brand launched in 2015 has produced 40 watches, starting at 200,000 Swiss francs (HK$1.672 million). The latest creation is the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1. This watch has no dial but it does have a complex power reserve of levers and a spiral spring, which puts torque on the whole device, guaranteeing that the mobile cone stays in contact with the levers in any position, even during shocks.
“This spring has been developed so that the coil remains concentric in any state of winding and unwinding – The Institute of Mathematics in Neuchâtel helped us with that,” says CEO Luc Perramond.
The case of the watch is made of carburised stainless steel, which means it is extremely hard, scratch resistant and corrosion resistant – not even acid can get at this watch.
Is the future of watchmaking marrying a mechanical movement with electronic setting? Benoît Mintiens, an industrial designer and founder of Ressence, thinks so. At SIHH he launched a concept watch called the e-Crown. This latest creation from the ergonomically driven brand that made 297 pieces in 2017 features an electronic interface, which allows you to set your mechanical watch by simply tapping it with your fingers or using an app – even if the watch’s power reserve cycle is long spent. “This is not a quartz watch, not a smartwatch, not a gadget. It is a big enhancement in functionality on a mechanical watch,” Mintiens says.
The mechanical integrity of the watch remains intact. The e-Crown is in hibernation 99 per cent of the time – and you can even disconnect it, if you wish to. “Why is it that you don’t trust your watch with the single purpose of telling you the time, when you do trust your phone, which does 2,000 other things? If a product doesn’t serve you, then what is its raison d’être? A product that you cannot trust is a useless product.”
Mintiens says the Ressence e-Crown gives you the best of both worlds: the empathetic, bond-creating aspect of a mechanical watch and the trustworthiness of an electronic watch. The product will be launched later in the year.
MB& F showed the MoonMachine 2, a collaboration with Finnish watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva, who by using optical prisms has created the world’s first projected moon phase indicator. “SIHH definitely had a more upbeat feeling than the previous year. Even though the fair is evolving into a more end-consumer-centric event, SIHH is still very much a BTB event,” says founder Max Büsser.
Retail demand for MB&F has exceeded supply for three years, but production will remain at 245 pieces a year. “As we do not want to craft more pieces, we need to close one account around the world to open another one. We remain with only one retail partner in Hong Kong [Elegant] and have just opened our first retail partner in Macau with Tak Chon group.”
MB&F is also exhibiting at Baselworld, but Büsser thinks the March 22-27 event could learn from Geneva: “SIHH has significantly increased its reach and will continue growing whilst Baselworld needs to quickly rethink its strategy if it does not want to be the next Nokia/Kodak.”
Romain Gauthier, who makes about 50 watches a year, was excited about his first women’s collection. “The Insight Micro-Rotor Lady is a luxury daily watch,” he says about a watch with a masculine version too. The 39.5mm diameter, the curve of the lugs and the crown positioned at 2 o’clock rather than 3 o’clock make the watch so comfortable. Equipped with a double barrel providing an 80-hour power reserve, it is also easy to leave over the weekend without having to reset it.
The women’s version has a grand feu enamel dial on top of a black mother-of-pearl from Tahiti or white mother-of-pearl from Australia. Ten pieces will be made of each version, and both are priced at 83,000 Swiss francs.