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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

(continued from page 2)

For those who are attracted to mechanical watches for their inner beauty, skeleton models showcase the movement’s intricate mechanics through the dial for all to admire. For centuries, skeletonization, the demanding technique of removing material to create a see-through movement and finely finishing it, has been revered as much as devising high complications.

Skeletonizing an ultrathin movement only heightens the difficulty of the task—and the drama. This year, svelte skeletons from Piaget, Audemars Piguet, Hublot and others exhibit a distinctly modern edge, while Blancpain, and Glashütte Original presented skeletons that retain elements of the fanciful engraving that distinguished historical models.

For its L.U.C XP Skeletec ($22,070), limited to 288 pieces, Chopard produced its first skeletonized movement, the self-winding L.U.C Calibre 96.17-S, equipped with two coaxial barrels supplying a 65-hour power reserve. The black open-worked bridges are plated with rhodium, which provides a visual contrast to the gilded gear wheels visible through both sides of the watch. A nickel-plated sunburst satin-brushed dial frames the intricate movement, enhancing readability while exuding a sense of elegance and modernity.  

Zenith Pilot Doublematic
Honorable mention: Alpina, Bell & Ross, Breguet, Breitling, Bremont, Hanhart, IWC, Omega, Richard Mille, Tutima

Pilot’s watches came on strong in 2012 with a fleet of new models ranging from romantic retro styles to high-performance technical pieces. Notably, IWC revamped and expanded its prominent aviation lineup, Breitling    unveiled a limited-edition 50th-anniversary Navitimer Cosmonaute, Bremont showed the World Timer ALT1-WT based on the C-17 watch that was originally commissioned for military use, and Bell & Ross spanned the gamut with classic Vintage WWI and WWII models to the edgy limited-edition BR01 models that emulate cockpit instruments, such as radar. Brands such as Alpina and U.S. newcomer Hanhart channeled the past while Richard Mille’s RM 039 Aviation E6-B and Omega’s Spacemaster Z-33 Watch went futuristic with elaborate high-tech functions for the pros.

Since the beginning, pilot’s watches were designed to perform in the cockpit with the ability to handle extreme temperature variations, vibrations, and magnetic fields produced by instrumentation. In addition to being tough, they have to be easy to read, so dials are designed for heightened legibility. Several brands including Breguet and Tutima claim a legitimate heritage in producing aviation timepieces since the early twentieth century, and Zenith is among these pioneers. This year, Zenith showcased a range of pilot’s watches from the massive vintage-inspired limited-edition Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 to the high-functioning Pilot Doublematic ($13,200 in steel). The latter is equipped with a world time function that tracks the time in various zones around the globe and is paired with a day/night indicator The Pilot Doublematic also houses Zenith’s automatic mechanical El Primero 4046 chronograph movement with two barrels—one for timekeeping and the other dedicated to the alarm function that is activated and set by a button and crown at 8 o’clock. With its blend of classic styling, practical functions, and a high-quality manufacture movement, the Pilot Doublematic flies high.

Dressing Up

Piaget’s Gouverneur
Honorable mention: Cartier, Girard-Perregaux, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels

Dress watches tend to lean toward classic in styling, and many of this year’s novelties literally reference vintage models for design inspiration. For example, Cartier’s Louis Cartier Tank XL Slimline is a sleek reiteration of the original Tank from 1922, thanks to sister brand Piaget’s ultra-thin hand-wound 430 movement. Vacheron Constantin and Van Cleef & Arpels revisited historic designs to create the updated Malte and Pierre Arpels (see Good Life Guide, page 46), while Girard-Perregaux’s Vintage 1966 collection and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Grande Reverso 1931 Rouge also pay tribute to their ancestors.

Piaget, however, broke from the past with its new Gouverneur line that adventurously experiments with an unusual, architectural shape. The round case departs from convention with an oval dial opening featuring a round circle in the center. This results in a novel aesthetic equilibrium. Alternating satin-brushed and polished surfaces further underscore the complexity of the case’s construction. Available in an automatic calendar ($26,000), a chronograph and a tourbillon, each available in pink or white gold, the Gouverneur line includes two new ultrathin movements, a Piaget specialty. Gouverneur breaks new ground as a resolutely contemporary dress watch for the twenty-first century.

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