For those who work in the world of watches, the third week of January is when you get on a plane to Geneva for four days of champagne drinking and handling some of the most expensive and technically accomplished timepieces around – otherwise known as Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH).
We may have seen enough launches to go a little watch-blind, but below are our top eight. If you’re a watch nerd like us, or you just want to adorn your wrist with a baller design piece, these are the timepieces you should be considering.
IWC Tribute to Pallweber ‘150 Years’
When you’re IWC and you have an anniversary to celebrate, choosing a watch to mark that milestone is going to be hard. Which is why, for its 150th, the Schauffhausen resident has decided to launch 25 new references across five of its most iconic families.
Although there are the usual suspects in there – dress watches and divers – it is this tribute to the Pallweber pocket watch that really gets the pulse racing. Back in 1884, IWC’s second owner Johann Rauschenbach-Schenk secured the rights to Josef Pallweber’s digital jump hours technology and here it has been rendered in wristwatch form for the first time.
Rather than go for a straight reproduction, IWC has Art Deco’d the font, plumped up the mechanism and put the whole thing in a decadent, 18-carat red gold case. The result is a dress watch like no other.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere World Time
After spending a few years trying on different identities, Montblanc has finally decided that its purpose in life is to make really great watches at astoundingly good prices, and this year’s crop of chronographs and calibres is no exception.
The star of the show was this 1858 Geosphere. The 1858 collection is a tribute to the Minerva manufacture, which was integrated into Montblanc back in 2008, and this specific model is dedicated to the world’s Seven Summit mountaineering challenge; the successful ascent of the highest mountain on every continent, which has only been completed by 500 athletes.
The two globes, which make a full rotation in 24 hours, represent the northern (at 12) and southern (at six) hemisphere, with the former spinning anti-clockwise and the latter clockwise. There is a day/night ring around each, so you can approximate the time around the globe. You’ve also got a second time zone at 9 o’clock, which is more straightforward to read.
It’s a great-looking timepiece that might not take you up a mountain but will certainly take your watch game to new heights.
Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic
Despite having a name that sounds like one of Wallace and Gromit’s inventions, this watch is a smart move for Richemont’s entry-level brand.
Aside from its classic good looks, this watch is the guinea pig for the luxury conglomerate’s further adventures in silicon. Taking a step on from the Clifton Manual 1830, which was the first Richemont-Group watch to feature a silicon balance, this new movement, developed using all the technical clout at Baume & Mercier’s disposal, also has a silicon lever and escape wheel – the former having been geometrically optimised to better transfer energy.
What all this wizardry amounts to is a watch that will maintain chronometer-grade accuracy throughout the entirety of its 120-hour power reserve. And all for the bargain price (in watch terms) of £2,150.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
It’s tempting to write off baller brand AP’s Offshore line as being the same as its famous Royal Oak but with more heft and strap options. Launched back in 1993, it was in fact an era-defining watch, not only because it was the first chronograph version of the Royal Oak but because it was so obviously aimed at a younger clientele who wanted all the luxury of an AP but with added sportiness.
To celebrate its 25th birthday, the guys in Le Brassus have obviously decided to have a little fun. Alongside some pretty bonkers reimaginings of how a chronograph could look is this slice of Instagram fodder. With its camo strap and contrasting green ceramic bezel and beige dial, it might not be for everyone but if you’re going to own a Royal Oak Offshore what’s the point in being coy about it?
Given that it’s a luxury brand with such a rich heritage, it isn’t surprising that Cartier’s current strategy seems to be tending towards revamp rather than revolution. Last year saw it giving its Tank Américaine a dust off and this year it’s the turn of one of the last century’s most iconic watches: the Santos.
This is the squared-off design created for Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos that became not only the first-ever pilot’s watch, but the first-ever wristwatch too. In short, a big deal in time-telling technology.
For 2018, the case has been thinned, the square bezel replaced by a rounded one, and it’s also been stretched. But the real innovation is the new SmartLink system that allows you to add or remove links with the mere twizzle of a tool, while its QuickSwitch innovation means the strap can be swapped for a bracelet with the press of a button. The only downside of it being this easy to adjust? It just makes it easier for your other half to pinch.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox
Another birthday revamp, this time for Jaeger-LeCoultre, which is hoping to get the young cosmopolitan male to think outside the Rolex-branded box with its new Polaris collection. While the other models in the range are totally new, the Polaris Memovox is a straight-up tribute to the original alarm watch Jaeger launched 50 years ago.
Rather than go for an update, this is an all-out homage. It has a vanilla SuperLuminova to create an aged look, a mix of indices and Arabic numerals, the minute railway track, the three-part case for resonance and, of course, the alarm, whose time is set using the inner rotating disc.
As this is the anniversary watch, it is limited to 1,000 pieces, so get your name on the waiting list pronto.
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate 910P Automatic
Piaget has been pursuing thin with all the determination of a model before London Fashion Week. This obsession started in 1957, when it launched its Calibre 9P – which at just 2mm high was the first ultra-thin hand-wound movement – and it has shown no signs of abating.
This year, it breaks another record with its Altiplano Ultimate 910P Automatic, which in its entirety is just 4.3mm thick, making it the thinnest automatic watch on the market.
As with the wafer-thin Altiplano 900P, the mainplate is merged with the caseback, which is why it looks as though the gear train is being used as decoration. To make it an automatic, Piaget has ditched the centrally mounted rotor – a 1mm bridge was considered too thick – and gone for a barely perceptible peripheral rotor, while the hands have been placed below the bridges to stop them from coming into contact with the glass.
It looks incredible on the wrist, and is so light that you won’t know you’re wearing it.
Hermès Carrè H
This is Hermès’s first year of being allowed to play with the haute horlogerie big boys at SIHH. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint. Alongside the usual whimsy and scarf prints was this cracker – the Carré H, which has been given a makeover by its original designer and furniture maker, Marc Berthier.
When it came out in 2010, the idea of the Carré H was for it to be a watch for the modern dandy. With its deceptive simplicity, square case and minimalist aesthetic it was an instant hit. For 2018, the square small seconds has gone, it’s been beefed up to 38mm and the centre features an interesting cross-hatch guilloche that really plays with the light. There is also an added colour pop from the second hand, which lends the whole watch an on-trend, mid-century modern vibe.