Insider's Picks: 9 Important Watches from SIHH 2012

Fresh from the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, we bring you our selection of standout watches

There are several kinds of new and notable watches – statement pieces, interesting collectables and watches that hold a glimpse of a brand’s future – that demand and command our attention every year. At the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in 2012, virtually every brand had at least one of these three kinds of new watches in their lineup.

Briefly, statement watches are horological masterpieces that demonstrate a manufacture’s audacity, know-how and character. For the most part, they are meant to knock one’s socks off and assure collectors and the press that exciting business is afoot. It’s hard to pick a winner here but we have to say that Cartier’s entire high watchmaking collection has owned this space in recent years.

Collectables are frequently vintage reissues, typically in very limited production runs. As an added bonus, often in the case of Panerai, the watch in question will feature an interesting vintage movement. Last year, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute to 1931 was among the standouts in this area.

Finally and perhaps most interesting of all are watches that give those who know what to look for an insight into a brand’s future. Sometimes these are fairly obvious, such as Panerai’s first in-house movements (2006) and Montblanc’s chronograph focus with the Nicolas Rieussec collection (2007). Similarly, Cartier’s high watchmaking collection also qualifies, given that this collection has completely reshaped the brand’s image.

Without further ado then, here are some of our favorites from SIHH 2012, in no particular order.

  • Insiders Picks 9 Important Watches From Sihh 2012 3A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon - You will notice that the tourbillon here is not visible dial side. Given that this is the Lange 1, the watchmakers wanted to preserve the harmony of the design so they had to keep the tourbillon discreet. We would not have minded at all if the word tourbillon did not appear on the dial. The real standout here is the perpetual calendar, which is an integrated and instantaneous mechanism.
  • Insiders Picks 9 Important Watches From Sihh 2012 4 Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Tourbillon Minute Repeater - Capping five intense years  of research, development and pure watchmaking at the La Chaux-de-Fonds manufacture, this repeater finds Cartier’s watchmakers in fine form. They can now say that they have mastered the know-how for each of the four major complications. Significantly, they can also say that they’ve brought a uniquely Cartier touch to each of these complications.
  • Insiders Picks 9 Important Watches From Sihh 2012 5Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Sphérotourbillon - The Duomètre watches have always featured perfectly proportioned dials with discrete indicators. Where the Lange 1 plays it coy with the tourbillon, the Duomètre goes all out, with the three-dimensional tourbillon hogging the limelight. An unparalleled double axis tourbillon with cylindrical balance spring, the mechanism performs a hypnotic and captivating dance.
  • Insiders Picks 9 Important Watches From Sihh 2012 6Montblanc TimeWriter II Chronographe Bi-Frequence 1,000 - Unlike some conceptual wonders at the fair, this watch is already a reality. Basically, this chronograph can record and display elapsed time down to the nearest 1/1000th of a second. Minerva has long had expertise in highly accurate stopwatches prior to the quartz era and Montblanc has called on this know-how – and Minerva’s ability to create its own escapements of course.
  • Insiders Picks 9 Important Watches From Sihh 2012 7Panerai Radiomir PAM 399/398 - Red gold finds a unique expression in PAM 398 in a variant (5NPt) that does not oxidize easily. Given the maritime roots of Officine Panerai this is very appropriate indeed. However, collectors will sit up and take notice that both PAM 399 and 398 use the vintage Minerva 16-17 as a base. Previously, Panerai has used the same movement in PAM 309 and PAM 322.
  • Insiders Picks 9 Important Watches From Sihh 2012 8Piaget Altiplano Ultra Thin Skeleton -  Piaget achieves yet more records for being super skinny this year. This watch is both the world’s thinnest automatic skeleton watch and is powered by the world’s thinnest automatic movement. The in-house caliber 1200S uses a micro-rotor, just like the base 1200P and 1208P, and the 1270P for the tourbillon last year. Widely recognized for their prowess in ultra-thin movements, Piaget is also going for gold in the art of skeletonization.
  • Insiders Picks 9 Important Watches From Sihh 2012 9Richard Mille RM 037 -  Richard Mille had plenty of jawdroppers this year but this unassuming piece caught our eye. Featuring an in-house developed movement from the firm, CRMA1, we think this watch is far more significant than its two-handed time-only appearance suggests. CRMA1 may well be the base movement of all future Richard Mille automatics although the jury is still out on the company’s intentions.
  • Insiders Picks 9 Important Watches From Sihh 2012 10Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionelle 14 Day Tourbillon -  This watch bears an unusual distinction: it has the longest power reserve of any tourbillon watch in the world. It is also the first of Vacheron Constantin’s new movements to receive the new Hallmark of Geneva. This Hallmark of Geneva business is quite serious, with Vacheron Constantin making it a central part of their communications this year.
  • Insiders Picks 9 Important Watches From Sihh 2012 11Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Wish -  As has been the case in recent years, Van Cleef & Arpels has stormed the ramparts of high watchmaking, this year with a constant force five-minute repeater, with no less than three automatons. The movement is the work of horology powerhouse Agenhor and its visionary leader Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. Despite the wondrous movement, what makes this watch quite different to everything else at the SIHH is the Extraordinary Dial.

For more information and pictures on each watch, please see the individual stories below:

A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Tourbillon Minute Repeater

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Sphérotourbillon

Montblanc TimeWriter II Chronographe Bi-Frequence 1,000

Panerai Radiomir PAM 399/398

Piaget Altiplano Ultra Thin Skeleton

Richard Mille RM 037

Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Wish

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionelle 14 Day Tourbillon

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