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Uality Time

This year's watch fairs in Switzerland reflect a new era of optimism. we pick the 10 most interesting timepieces.
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Greg Raymer, Sept/Oct 2004

(continued from page 1)

Panerai Radiomir 8 Days
To some, the oval watches of Panerai have become the tough guy's watch following their success with Hollywood stars such as Sylvester Stallone. Others have shied away from their overtly sporty style. The new Panerai Radiomir 8 Days model in rose gold with a black dial and dark-brown crocodile strap should change some minds. Think Rocky in a Gucci dinner jacket. The watch takes its inspiration from the debut of the Radiomir range, which was introduced with 60 examples in 1997. Its sandwich dial with luminous numerals is classic Panerai, and the eight-day power reserve is a nice added feature. The latter can be seen through the watch's skeleton back. It retails for about $18,900.

Richard Mille 005
This watch enjoyed the most buzz during the fairs in Switzerland. Richard Mille is taking time to a different level, designing watches like carmakers build automobiles for Formula One racing. "Nothing is spared for performance," he says. The 005 is his base model with the classic Mille skeleton dial that looks like a NASA design. In fact, he uses many materials that were developed for America's space shuttle, ranging from titanium arms and flanges in the movement to ceramic ball bearings in the rotor. He says that the self-winding mechanism will adapt itself to your movements whether you are serving aces on the tennis court or writing out checks at your desk—nice touch. It comes in titanium as well as white or pink gold. The titanium is the entry-level model, costing about $25,000.

Zenith Grand Chronomaster XXT Tourbillon
Zenith CEO Thierry Nataf calls this new Tourbillon watch "a tribute to abstract art," but the Grand Chronomaster XXT Tourbillon is certainly not theoretical. It keeps perfect time, with two extremely complex functions working together. To begin with, the watch includes Zenith's fast beat movement, which is the key to the success of its regular Grand Chronomaster. The watch keeps time to the nearest tenth of a second, beating 36,000 times an hour. A normal watch usually beats 18,000 times an hour. However, what makes the new Zenith timepiece even more special is its magnificent Tourbillon movement, in which its escapement is held in a rotating cage that counterbalances the effects of gravity. The function is evident at the top of the watch through a tiny hole. It took Zenith's designers and watchmakers three years to create the Grand Chronomaster XXT Tourbillon. It comes in a white-gold case with a black dial or pink-gold case with a silver dial. Zenith made only 70 of the watches, and prices in the United States are expected to be just over $100,000.

Gérald Genta Retro Sport
Unlike Genta's new Arena Sport Bi-Retro watch, whose fluorescent blue-and-orange net-like dial is a must for any well-to-do hipster, last year's Retro Sport might be more to people's taste, with the same idiosyncratic movements but in an altogether more elegant style. The Retro Sport comes with a steel and yellow-gold case with a row of 60 diamonds and a row of 78 yellow sapphires embedded in the bezel. It retails for about $20,200. Both watches include a jumping hour function as well as retrograde date and minutes—which means that hands on the dial jump back and forth, indicating the time and the date. This is not the easiest watch to read, but it's certainly one of the most modern and stylish on the market. Bi-Retros start at about $8,800.

Oris Artelier Worldtimer Centennial Set (Limited Edition)
Oris celebrates its 100th birthday with a limited-edition boxed set, complete with wristwatch, small desk clock and hardcover book detailing the company's history. The first item is reason enough to buy it. The Artelier Worldtimer is individually numbered with a special engraving of the Oris factory in 1904 to commemorate its centennial. Only 1,904 watches were made for the set. The traditional yet sophisticated Worldtimer has a small dial that keeps an additional time zone, and another dial for seconds. The time zones can be quickly adjusted with two push buttons, which resemble a fly-back movement. The watch comes in a three-piece stainless steel case with a white dial, rose-gold hands and indices, and a skeleton back that exposes the red rotor in the main movement. It's a great buy at $3,395 for the set.

Bedat & Co. No. 8
This was my favorite watch of the show for its rugged elegance. This is the watch that you wear on safari while dining in black tie. The steel case is simple and refined while the interwoven, dark-brown alligator strap gives the watch a rustic individuality. It's an automatic movement and available with either a silver or black face. It also includes a calendar as well as a second hand. The watch retails for just under $5,000. Creator Christian Bedat noted that it was his first round watch and that he wanted to do something different, less boring than similar watches. He has succeeded.

IWC Aquatimer Cousteau Divers
I have friends who claim to use their IWC Aquatimers for skin diving, but they secretly feel more comfortable wearing them with their city suits than their wet suits. Aquatimers are chic wristwatches for people who want to show that they are serious outdoorsmen, whether scuba divers plunging 100 meters in the Caribbean or backyard chefs manning the barbecue. The new Cousteau Divers, a tribute to French marine biologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau's first expedition, is the cream of the crop with its unique blue/orange dial and dark-blue rubber strap. The back of the stainless steel case is engraved with the signet of the Costeau research vessel Alcyone, and each timepiece is individually numbered. The self-winding watch comes with a second hand, mechanical rotating inner bezel and day indicator. Only 1,953 watches were made. It costs about $4,100.

Maurice Lacroix Double Rétrograde
The ML watch company prides itself on the highly complex movements in this watch: the retrograde date and 24-hour display. Its technicians developed and produced them from scratch. Or as one employee told me at the watch fair in Basel, "We made the machines, that made the tools, that made the parts, that made the watches."

Without getting into the minutiae of the coiled resetting springs of the retrograde movement, hands point to the date and the hour time display instead of the revolving numerals on cylinders that are often used in other watches. The latter function is particularly useful for travelers who need to keep time in dual time zones. It also has a power reserve indicator (45-hour capacity) as well as a second hand included on the dial. The entry-level watch comes in stainless steel and sells for about $6,500. The Double Rétrograde is also available in limited-edition models in platinum, pink gold and white gold. The latter is only for the U.S. market.


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