SIHH 2017: The Ones with the WOW Factor

This was an easy one to write. Am I allowed to say that? This isn’t exactly controversial territory. The highlights reel is always going to be the most straightforward selection of all. One may engage in endless debate on which watches provide the most consumer value, or which watches constitute the most evolved examples of modern watchmaking, but you just ask anyone what the defining watches of the 2017 SIHH were and 99 times out of 100 you’ll get the same few candidates over and over again. You can ignore the one-percenters –they’re either trying to sound clever by throwing in a contrarian opinion, or they’ve over-analyzed things, or they just don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Or could be a combination of all three.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, 2017 saw Urwerk release the UR-T8 – a new version of the brand’s signature wandering-hour watch. Big and bold, and taking inspiration from Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso. It is the biggest version to date and features a case that flips to keep the time display wrist-side beneath a protective titanium shell.

The Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 is the latest horological descendant of the ref. 57260 (the record-setting, ultra-complicated pocket watch that made everyone totally lose it in 2015). The cascade of technical mastery that proceeded from the ref. 57260 is what allows the Celestia to accommodate the expressions of three different time-languages within the confines of its 45mm case. Working off a single oscillator, the Celestia speaks civil time, solar time and sidereal time, all three of which are calculated on different base units. The Celestia is like the Rosetta Stone of horology, and I will throw down with anyone who disputes its preeminence among the watches presented this January.

Ulysse Nardin has a habit of creating game-changing watches. The Freak wrote the first chapter on modern, disruptive horology, and it ought to be no surprise that the company brought its “A” game to its first SIHH. The InnoVision II is stacked with a bunch of patents that anyone with basic levels of literacy and access to a spec sheet can reel off to you, but all you need to remember are the following points. The Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement was presented in 2014, and its advantages were immediately apparent in terms of ensuring constant torque to the oscillator. That expertise has transferred over to the Dual Constant Escapement, which adds direct impulse into the mix, booting out the inefficient Swiss lever and replacing it with consistent torque and increased power reserve. I’m not saying the other technical advancements presented in the InnoVision II aren’t a big deal, but they’re not crazy new either. The real BFD here is the constant-force direct-impulse escapement and the potential it holds–this is what you’ll remember at Christmas.

As long as I can remember, MB&F has never presented a big piece during the major watch fairs. They usually do their thing in September, when people are starting to chill out. The HM7 Aquapod is busting out in the middle of the first big watch event of the year, and let me tell you, that hasn’t diminished its impact in the slightest. The construction of the movement is a radical departure from every convention of watchmaking as we know it. Instead of inverting every other wheel-and-pinion unit in the going train, the HM7 just keeps going up…and up…and up. There is delight in every aspect of the watch, from its high-spinning tourbillon to the freewheeling rotor. MB&F tells us that the inspiration comes from a jellyfish, but in my head the HM7 keeps getting tangled up with images of an intergalactic space pod hurtling past our solar system.

This is what it means to be a show-stopping watch. The complications or the design or the polished internal angles don’t matter. These watches are about so much more than that; they ignite your imagination and your wonder.

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