Many others could have been included, but these are my favourites for a year that saw many watches on the theme of astronomy and astrology, along with perpetual calendars, repeaters, and a lot of mother-of-pearl in women’s watches.
1. A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna
A watch in which information is presented on both sides, with extraordinary clarity and simplicity. On the front, interlocking dials for minutes at the top, hours at bottom right, and seconds at bottom left. At the top of the dial, the date is shown in large figures; day and month are shown in two more rectangular windows at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock, and the leap year in a small window at about 2.30. The watch has a power reserve of 14 days, and this is shown in the long narrow window at the bottom of the dial. On the reverse, the sapphire caseback displays an extraordinary view of the Earth seen from above the north pole, and rotating every 24 hours with respect to the sun (corresponding to the balance wheel) so that the piece functions as a day/night indicator. The disc around the Earth carries the moon and rotates in exactly one lunar month per rotation, with moon phase that varies accordingly. Incredible precision, superb understatement, with 878 components wrapped in a large case in pink or white gold, 45.5 mm in diameter. Information: http://www.alange-soehne.com/
2. Breguet Classique Chronométrie 7727
Things happen relatively slowly in the watch industry, and the Breguet Classique Chronométrie 7727 is based on a patent registered in 2010, while the watch itself was first presented in 2012. In 2014 a slightly different version was presented, and it won the top prize at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève. It has an incredibly classical appearance, with Breguet’s masterly guilloché work on the dial, with different finishes for different areas, but it incorporates some of the most ground-breaking technology in the business. This is principally the use of magnetic fields to support the balance axis, instead of the usual jewels. The significance of this innovation can be gauged from the words of brand founder Abraham-Louis Breguet, who said, “Give me the perfect oil, and I will give you the perfect watch!” Oils gradually deteriorate, meaning that after five or ten years a watch has to be serviced and re-lubricated.
A watch with magnetic pivots could, in theory, run for ever, because there is no friction. Usually, magnetism is the enemy of watchmakers because it reduces precision, and Breguet were able to take the unprecedented step of actually incorporating micro-magnets into the movement because of the anti-magnetic technology developed by brand owner Swatch Group. The balance spring and other components are made from materials unaffected by magnetism such as a special silicon. The calibre 574DR movement runs at 10 Hertz, and the tiny subdial just to the right of the 12 o’clock Roman numeral has a silicon hand that rotates once every second. All in all, a masterpiece and a landmark, in a rose gold or white gold 41-mm diameter case. Information: www.breguet.com
3. Bulgari Octo Finissimo
Bulgari presented many superb new watches at Baselworld in March 2014, such as the new women’s watch Lucea, and the Octo Velocissimo chronograph. But it was with the Octo Finissimo that Bulgari achieved a truly astounding result, the thinnest tourbillon watch in the world with a case just 5 millimetres thick. To attain this, savings in space were attained by ensuring that all the components were within the thickness of the tourbillon cage at 1.95 mm. In addition, ball bearings are used instead of jewels for some of the pivots, and the hour indices are painted and not applied. Information: http://www.bulgari.com/
4. Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astrocalendaire
The Cartier hallmarks are all there: the Roman numerals and crown with blue cabochon, but this piece is an amazingly innovative way of displaying perpetual calendar information. The concentric rings surrounding the tourbillon are like a classical amphitheatre and add three-dimensional complexity. The date, month and day are shown by blue brackets that revolve to highlight the relevant data. The leap year indicator can be seen through the caseback, along with details of the in-house automatic movement. The case is in platinum, 45 mm in diameter and 15.7 mm thick. Information: http://www.cartier.com/
5. IWC Portofino Midsize Moonphase
IWC has always been exclusively a men’s watch brand, and so when they presented their new Portofino Midsize collection at Watches & Wonders in Hong Kong on 30 September 2014, it was quite a surprise. The Midsize Moonphase is a lovely women’s watch with a white mother-of-pearl dial, a red gold case, and 66 diamonds on the bezel.
The automatic movement has the stop-seconds function for accurate time setting, and a power reserve of 42 hours. The case is 37 mm in diameter, and can be mounted on various straps including a range of luxury straps by Santoni, or a Milanaise bracelet in red gold. Reference IW459005. Information: http://www.iwc.com/
6. Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Sphérotourbillon
The Duomètre Sphérotourbillon concept was presented in 2012, and this year a version as part of the Hybris Artistica series included this piece, one of a limited edition of three. The spherical tourbillon spring is incredible to watch, resembling a beating heart, expanding and contracting as it is transported through space on two axes of movement.
An important technical feature is a pusher at 2 o’clock which resets the seconds subdial to zero. The top subdial is for a second time zone; the three dials are in grand feu enamel on a hand-engraved white gold background. Information: www.jaeger-lecoultre.com
7. MB&F HM6 Space Pirate
What happens when a watch company is so young it doesn’t have any so-called brand DNA? It can do anything it likes. You can see the result from MB&F, whose design team headed by Maximilian Büsser (the MB in the name, who is accompanied by his Friends – hence MB&F) utilized influences from Japanese manga and work by industrial designer Luigi Colani in their HM6 Space Pirate watch. It looks like a sort of space station, with a flying tourbillon under the central dome, two semi-spherical indicators showing hours and minutes in the front two domes, and two turbines in the back two domes.
A crown on the left-hand side of the case opens and closes a metal membrane that covers or reveals the tourbillon, and this piece of design wizardry has a function, because it is light that degrades lubricant oil and so closing the shutter helps extend the time before maintenance is necessary. The turbines rotate with every movement of the oscillating weight visible on the reverse. The case is in titanium, with a total of ten sapphire crystals. The movement has a power reserve of 72 hours. Information: http://www.mbandf.com/
8. Montblanc Bohème Perpetual Calendar
This is an exceptional piece because it makes an important complication, the perpetual calendar, available at a relatively accessible price. The dial is beautifully balanced and easily legible, with month and leap year at 12 o’clock, day at 9 o’clock, date at 3 o’clock, and moon phase at 6 o’clock. The movement is not made in-house, and it has a Dubois Depraz perpetual calendar model added to the calibre based on the classic ETA 2892-A2, but the balance of the subdials is perfect for this format.
The case is in steel, or in red gold with 60 Top Wesselton diamonds on the bezel, and a Montblanc-cut diamond in the crown. If you keep it going, it won’t need adjustment until the year 2100. If it should stop, no worry: there are recessed pushers on the side of the case for easy regulation. Information: http://www.montblanc.com/
9. Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731
Not just a sophisticated dress watch with a 41 mm diameter case just 8.09 mm thick, this piece is also a repeater, chiming the hours, quarters and minutes on two gongs. The sapphire caseback provides a wonderful contrast with the beautiful minimalist dial, with details of the magnificent Calibre 1731 movement in full view. Information: http://www.vacheron-constantin.com/
10. Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planétarium Poetic Complication
Undoubtedly one of the most spectacular watchmaking concepts seen in 2014, presented at SIHH in January. For centuries, watchmakers have been inspired by the impalpable precision of the rotation of the planets in the solar system, and the ‘planetary rotation’ combining orbital motion with rotation about the planet’s axis was the inspiration of the tourbillon. But no-one up until now had transferred the movement of the planets to a watch. The Midnight Planétarium shows the time at the outside of the dial, with a little shooting star that revolves around a 24-hour scale and shows the time to the nearest few minutes.
On concentric aventurine rings, the planets are shown by small spheres made from precious stones, and each rotates exactly as the actual planet milions of kilometres above us. So the little yellow sphere closest to the central sun completes a rotation in 88 days, while you will have to wait 29 years to see Saturn complete its course around the dial. The rotating bezel enables the user to mark a lucky day against the red triangle, and on that day, the turquoise Earth will be perfectly framed by a star engraved on the sapphire watchglass. Information: http://www.vancleefarpels.com/