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Fire and Ice Featured

When technical expertise meets a creative spirit, the results are some of the world's most extreme watches

by 24 August 2010

Strong silhouettes, great complications and limited editions – if you are a watch connoisseur or collector, a watch is not just a watch anymore. At this year’s Salon International de Haute Horlogerie in Geneva and Baselworld, we saw exciting developments in watchmaking. In a continuous effort to achieve greater precision and better design, watchmakers and designers work hand in hand. “Precision is our greatest challenge. Sometimes it comes down to finding every millimeter of space, fitting every piece together and making the movement work,” explained Magali Métrailler, the designer of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s extraordinary men’s and sports watches, when I interviewed her at SIHH. This was something I had never thought about, but the hard work that Ms Métrailler described is a watchmaker and designer’s task every day.

While precision is a technical quality, the concept of time is something quite different. It may seem strange to hear great watch designer Franck Muller say that time does not exist. He said to us at WPHH last year, “Time is just a human invention that helps society organise its days and nights.” This very idea of “time” has been the inspiration for more than 200 designs in his name. Whether you see time as an abstract concept, or whether you are someone who fights for every precious minute of the day, we have picked out this year’s most outstanding references for you.

Talking about the marriage of expertise and creativity, the prototype of Rolex’s iconic diving watch is a great example. The watch made it across the English Channel back in 1920, when a young swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze wore it and braved the waves. After 10 hours underwater, the watch was still in perfect working order. The historic event marked the birth of Rolex’s collections of diving watches. Named the “Oyster”, the watch featured a sealed case which provided optimal protection for the movement. This year, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Date watch is made with new materials. For the first time, its dial and outer rim will be available in green Cerachrom for greater visibility under water. The movement has a unique, blue Parachrom overcoil balance-spring, greatly improving the movement’s accuracy.

Rolex boutiques

The fashionable J12 29mm watch needs no introduction, but how about the marine version launched at Baselworld this year? Though you might not be able to use it now during winter, the J12 Marine’s sleek, innovative design is reason enough for you to take it to exotic waters across the world just to test it out. The black and white high-tech sand-blasted ceramic and steel case comes with a matching rubber strap. The watch glass has a blue-anti-reflective coating on the inside and outside, and an engraved unidirectional rotating steel bezel provides easy legibility wherever you might be. Power reserve is up to 42 hours, and the watch can withstand a pressure depth of 300 metres underwater. The composite material of the bracelet is resistant to water, shock, light, and even UV. With this technically brilliant watch, Chanel has proved once again that it faultlessly and apparently effortlessly blends the world of high fashion and fine watchmaking.

Chanel boutiques

Ready for any season, Glasshüte Original’s newest wristwatch is made to last. The technical challenge was to provide optimal protection to the movement. In cooperation with the Fraunhofer technology development group in Stuttgart, four red shock-absorbing elements were created, using a special material. Absorbing more than 60% of shocks during active sports, the Sport Evolution Impact Chronograph is still reliable and accurate whether on the slopes of St Moritz or during a diving session in Bali. Another equally powerful design is hallmarked by the 46mm stainless steel case, and easy-to-read SuperLumiNova hands and markers. Choose from a matt black rubber strap, a Trieste strap with a red seam, or a specially-designed stainless steel bracelet. Two buttons on either side ensure that the clasp cannot open accidentally, a very useful feature for sport professionals and enthusiasts.

The theme colours of Audemars Piguet’s iconic collection are black and white, two opposites as inextricably entwined as day and night. The diamond-set reference replaces steel with 18-carat white gold, and the black chronograph in particular is adorned with hundreds of diamonds. David von Gunten, CEO of Audemars Piguet, told us, "People who truly love Audemars Piguet watches share the same vision as our company: they appreciate tradition. At the same time they are always looking for products with exceptional quality, and of course, dare to accept revolutionary ideas." The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph has mother-of-pearl dial counters, in contrast with the signature black “méga tapisserie” motif. This watch is as tough as it is beautiful. Equipped with a self-winding movement, the 2385 calibre has up to 40 hours of power reserve and has the prestigious Côtes de Genève approval.

Audemars Piguet boutiques

FW 2010

Back in 2001, Harry Winston first launched the Opus series, which has been re-constructed year after year to the admiration of connoisseurs and collectors alike. The collaboration with watch engineer Jean-François Mojon has produced an award-winning watch for its groundbreaking accomplishment. The Opus X has a system of rotating indicators replaces the traditional fixed dial and hands. In fact, the indicators of hours, minutes, seconds and secondary time zone are on individual satellite wheels, which orbit around the central solar wheel. Every indicator has an ever so slight incline, allowing an elegant curvature of the case. Opus X has a mechanical movement with manual winding. One would think that such a complex design means reduced power reserve, but the watch can run up to three days. It is also waterproof to 30 meters. Its 46-mm case will really get you attention, but don’t get too excited because Opus X is limited to just 100 pieces.

Harry Winston boutiques

The challenge of how to improve precision is on every watch designer’s and maker’s mind. It looks like Breguet has just made another giant step in time-measuring mechanism, creating the Breguet overcoil balance spring in silicon. This unique metal is totally anti-magnetic and highly resistant to corrosion and friction, making the platinum, manual-winding tourbillon watch even more stable and accurate. The watch is not only water resistant up to three bar, it is also equipped with the patented titanium balance wheel. With so many patented innovations, it will definitely be appreciated by watch connoisseurs. You will be delighted to know that the 7047 is not a limited edition, which means you can take your time and browse all of Breguet’s 2010 creations at your nearest Breguet retailer.

Breguet boutiques
Fall 2010