We’re here in Geneva, Switzerland, at SIHH, the first of the two most important watch industry events of the year, where the brands of the Richemont Group, whose marques include Cartier, Roger Dubuis, Panerai, and IWC, will announce all of their major product releases for 2017.
Before heading into the show, an industry-wide nervous anticipation loomed. The year 2016 was marked by disappointing sales and questions about how one of Switzerland’s most important industries would address the challenges. The anxiety, however, dissipated with the introduction of several exciting pieces that grabbed attention with materials and design innovations and refreshes of classic models. Here, highlights from day one.
Audemars Piguet presented a ceramic version of its Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar that comes not just in a high-tech ceramic case, but on a bracelet made from precisely machined ceramic links. The Royal Oak case and bracelet, originally designed by Gerald Genta and first presented in steel in 1972, is a classic of horological design. Making this watch from ceramic, and meticulously machining its bracelet from the same material, takes six times as long as making the steel version. The substantial efforts required to create this watch are reflected in its price tag of $93,900, which costs about three times as much as the steel version and nearly as much as a similar Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar made from gold. Even in a down economy, this watch has generated significant buzz among editors and has been drawing a lot of attention from AP collectors.
Focusing on watches for women, which remain an underdeveloped market segment (and, many would argue, the best hope for growth in a down market), Jaeger-LeCoultre presented a refresh of its Rendez-Vous collection. The brand endowed this popular range with a new lunar display, an alarm function, and options for larger sizes and straps, as well as issuing a yellow gold version. That trending precious metal option that had previously not been available in the brand’s main women’s line.
IWC, a brand that rose to prominence as a maker of sport and tool watches popular among male collectors, also placed a great emphasis on watches for female clientele with the widely anticipated relaunch of its Da Vinci line. The new collection swapped the tonneau case of its mid-aughts incarnation for a paired-down, dressy round case with prominent lugs. The overall effect of the Da Vinci design is one that pays homage to the original design of the 1980s. Today’s is priced to attract new and younger collectors, starting at around $5,000 for the 36 mm version in stainless steel and increasing in price for versions equipped with a moon phase display, a gold case, or a smattering of diamonds.
At the very high end of avant-garde horological innovation, Roger Dubuis debuted a selection of watches produced in collaboration with performance tire-maker Perelli. The most technically impressive of these is a limited edition of 8 Excalibur Spider Double Tourbillon Perelli models. Powered by a hand-wound, skeletonized double tourbillon movement and available exclusively from company-owned Roger Dubuis boutiques, the watch comes on a strap crafted—as you might expect—from Perelli tire rubber of rare and unusual provenance. The material itself was taken from tires used by Lewis Hamilton on his winning car during last year’s Monaco Grand Prix.
The company continues to innovate in the arena of architectural skeleton watches with the Excalibur Spider Carbon, a timepiece that utilizes carbon fiber for its mainplate, bridges, and even its tourbillon cage—in other words, some of its most important, functional movement components. Its case is made from carbon fiber that has been sculpted to further reduce its weight. Roger Dubuis is among the first watchmakers ever to work with carbon fiber on movement construction, and perhaps the first to do so on these difficult-to-manufacture parts. The Excalibur Carbon Spider is limited to 28 pieces and is set to retail for CHF 180,000.