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Prime Time

Beyond the hype of the year’s high horology rarities is an array of intriguing watches for dreamers and realists alike
Laurie Kahle
From the Print Edition:
Ernie Els, November/December 2012

At January’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) fair in Geneva, Richard Mille flaunted his knack for creating buzz with the $1.65 million RM 56 Felipe Massa Sapphire. Limited to five pieces, the watch was a spectacle housed in a brawny clear sapphire crystal case that requires nearly 1,800 hours to produce. Despite the astronomical price tag and the flagrant impracticality of a brittle crystal case, the watches sold out the first day.

Meanwhile across the hall, tourbillon maestros Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey unveiled their $650,000 GMT, marking the first time Greubel Forsey has added a new complication to their stellar tourbillon lineup. A. Lange & Söhne stopped traffic by displaying a huge model of its Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, a 100-piece limited edition priced at $341,900. Other rarefied highlights included Jaeger-LeCoultre’s $262,000 Duomètre Sphérotourbillon and Cartier’s Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon, considered to be a value at just under $300,000. Such expensive musical repeating watches proliferated this year offering a step up from the overexposed tourbillon with inventive creations from Bulgari, Corum, Girard-Perregaux, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Parmigiani, Patek Philippe, Peter Speake-Marin and Van Cleef & Arpels.

While there was no shortage of breathtaking six- and seven-figure watches in 2012, such precious timepieces are produced in extremely limited quantities for precious few elite collectors. As the annual watch reviews ooh and ah over all the horological fireworks, it’s easy to overlook a number of grounded watches that also are worthy of recognition for their innovative features and timely design. Rather than stick to superlatives at the highest echelons of horology, we’re showcasing new and noteworthy watches from a broad spectrum of watchmakers, styles and price points.

Diving

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon NEDU
Honorable mention: Breitling, Alpina

Sporty dive watches are go-to everyday watches for seafarers and landlubbers alike. Though most dive watches never take the plunge, recent years have brought the development of extreme models that function at hard- to-fathom depths at which few humans would venture. This year, for example, Breitling’s Superocean Chronograph M2000 is the first chronograph that functions down to 2,000 meters, while Alpina’s 2012 Extreme Diver, with water-resistance down to 1,000 meters, scores style and value points for its retro design, starting at $1,250 on a rubber strap.

Among a number of worthy dive watches this year, Ball Watch Company’s Engineer Hydrocarbon NEDU (from $4,299) stands apart for innovative functions designed to keep you safer beneath the waves on real-world dives. Named for the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU), which is responsible for operational diving and decompression rules for the United States Armed Forces, this COSC-certified chronograph powered by a reliable ETA 7750 automatic movement is the first diving watch with an automatic helium release valve incorporated into the crown. Visibility is another crucial feature in the murky depths, so Ball fits the indexes and hands with luminous micro tubes of 3H gas that literally light up the dial. The NEDU is also guaranteed to be water-resistant down to 600 meters, even if you’re not.

Boating

Ulysse Nardin Black Sea
Honorable mention: Panerai, Corum

Whether by motor or sail, riding the waves requires a rugged watch that stands up to hard knocks as well as the elements. Materials play a key role in the most interesting watches for the boating crowd this year. Panerai dives in with a rugged yet lightweight Tuttonero Luminor 1950 3 Days GMT Automatic Ceramica constructed from black ceramic, including the bracelet. Meanwhile, Corum coats the case of its Admiral’s Cup Challenger 44 Chrono Rubber in velvety soft rubber, which is available in four colors to match your yacht’s design scheme.


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