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Haute Horology

New timepieces unveiled at this year’s watch fairs acknowledged both the sophisticated consumer and the tighter economy
Elizabeth Doerr
From the Print Edition:
Adrien Brody, September/October 2010

(continued from page 1)

But it isn't just a chronograph stopwatch. This particular complication is outfitted with some of Breguet's groundbreaking technology: a silicon escapement and flat balance spring allow the watch's frequency to be radically increased to 10 Hertz, which equals 72,000 vibrations per hour, or two-and-a-half times the normal rate. It is usually the case that a higher frequency endows a movement with more precision. A side effect of this is that the chronograph second hand makes one complete rotation in 30 seconds as opposed to the 60 seconds of a regular chronograph. Thus, the start of the chronograph function and its readout can be said to be twice as precise. So why doesn't every mechanical chronograph do this? The answer is relatively simple: a high frequency like that (a normal high-frequency wristwatch generally beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour, less than half of the new Breguet Type XXII) puts an incredible strain on the components making up the escapement and balance and ages them much more quickly. Crafting these particular parts in silicon not only solves the wear-and-tear problem, but since this material is ultralight, it actually ensures that this frequency can function without lubrication, the bane of every wristwatch.

For practical reasons, it is good to know that this chronograph is also outfitted with a flyback function, which means that the timing procedure can be started over again without having to first reset the chronograph hands. The Type XXII also displays a second time zone. It is housed in a 44 mm matte stainless steel case and retails for $18,200 on an integrated alligator skin strap (shown) or $19,600 on a stainless steel bracelet.

Bulgari Sotirio Bulgari Caliber 168
The year 2010 was a milestone year in watchmaking for the Bulgari group. Not only did Bulgari reconfigure its relationship to its haute horlogerie subbrands Gérald Genta and Daniel Roth, the Italian group also introduced its first in-house caliber created for use in everyday wristwatches.

Caliber 168 is the name of the new automatic movement showing the time and date, and is currently showcasing in an equally beautiful line of timepieces called Sotirio Bulgari-named for the founder of the renowned company. While the advent of a relatively simple automatic movement may sound like nothing special, it is important to note that very few companies actually make their own movements, and that most are supplied by one concern. In this day and age, manufacturing one's own movement is the mark of a serious player in the world of luxury timepieces and the birth of Caliber 168 represents the embodiment of Bulgari's integrated manufacturing division. In 2005, Bulgari had already acquired high-quality suppliers of dials and bracelets; 2007 saw the purchase of a watch case manufacturer. Setting up its own workshop for making movements was Bulgari's final step to becoming almost fully autonomous.

Caliber 168's plates and bridges are crafted in German silver, a finicky alloy that few companies use despite its advantages of sturdiness, aesthetics and rigidity.

Perfectly symbolizing its intended use as a base movement for continuing introductions, the Sotirio Bulgari is already available in four versions housed in a contemporary 43 mm case: stainless steel, stainless steel coated with black DLC (diamond-like carbon), 18-karat rose gold, and two-tone 18-karat rose gold with stainless steel. Prices start at $6,900.

Bulgari Gérald Genta Octo Biretro
Having to pick only one model from the revamped Gérald Genta collection was nearly impossibile as the "merger" Bulgari performed on its most complicated collection has led to a stunning revamp of the entire line. What had most collectors up in arms before they ever laid eyes on the timepieces turned out to be the best thing Bulgari could ever have done with its two mini-brands, Gérald Genta and Daniel Roth.

These two brands-acquired by the Bulgari group in 2000-have since formed the base of Bulgari's complicated watchmaking expertise. However, the group has never really been quite sure how to approach the collector's market interested in these pieces, and sales performance has been less than stellar throughout the years. After various attempts, Bulgari made the decision this year to integrate the models and names into its own pool of know-how, mainly by adding the word "Bulgari" to the dial alongside each of the pre-existing names.

"Both the Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta brand names will no longer exist as individual brands," Group CEO Francesco Trapani explained. "They are integrated into the Bulgari collection, but both will maintain their haute horlogerie ‘DNA.' We intend to fully respect their stylistic codes and specificities."

This is precisely what Bulgari has done-and, contrary to what the aficionado may have previously expected, the result is magnificent. Italians have always had a well-deserved reputation for style, which is also true of the watch and jewelry industries. What Bulgari has added to the Genta and Roth lines is an Italian feel for the fineness of the material, turning these mechanical masterpieces into spectacular works of art.


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