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The Chief Editor’s Choice: From the Geneva Watch Shows Top 5

With hands-on remarks and anecdotes.
by Peter Chong on January 29, 2018
Chief Editor's Choice: Geneva Watch Shows Top 5

And it comes to the Chief to make his selection from the Geneva Watch Shows Top 5. This is a no holds barred selection, with no attention paid to political correctness, or the need to please any brands. But a truthful selection based on true feelings, and why. So here are the top 5 marques which make the mark (pun intended, but order is random): Audemars Piguet RD#2, Greubel Forsey Différentiel d’Égalité, Ressence e-Crown, A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split and (surprise!) Cartier Révélation d’une Panthère.

Selection Criteria

Although we made some emphasis that Deployant will be report on all watches, for our the Geneva Shows Top 5 report, it turns out that all the watches are from within the SIHH. The selection criteria is based on innovation (meaning a new caliber and watch), as well as emotional beauty. The first criteria is objective and easy to quantify, but the second is personal.

If we allow some leeway on the first criteria, some other watches may find its way into this list. An example is the superbly executed and extremely beautiful De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels. The DB28 is stunning (we will review it in full soon), but its a refinish of an older movement which Denis Flageollet first created in 2014. Another may be the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox, though it comes with a completely new movement, applying the first criteria strictly meant it misses the list as the design is a homage to the original of the 1960s. But nevertheless, it is a magnificent watch which we will review in full soon, and is one of the highlights of the SIHH. And there are others. Like the Singer Reimagined Track 1 Geneva Edition, which is not a new watch, as the movement has made its appearance in the Faberge Visionnaire Chronograph in Baselworld 2017, but Singer themselves revealed a standard edition in mid-2017, the Geneva Edition is merely an extension.

So without further ado, let’s begin…the Editor’s Choice of the Geneva Shows Top 5, in no particular order:

 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar

To the uninitiated, at first glance the AP Royal Oak RD#2 looks like any other Royal Oak…one with a Perpetual Calendar. Only when one examines the hefty platinum case does one realise that the 41mm watch is ultra thin. The world’s thinnest automatic perpetual calendar, to be precise. Both the movement and the watch fully encased breaks the previous record.

The thinnest automatic perpetual calendar prior to this was held by two watches. One for the case and the other for the movement. The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar’s case was the thinnest at 8.1mm thick. But its movement, the VC C.1120 QP is 4.01mm. The Patek Philippe Ref. 5490 at 8.48mm case height, but its the movement was the thinnest until now. The Patek C.240Q measures 3.8mm high. The The Audemars Piguet RD#2’s Royal Oak case handily beats both of them at 6.3mm high with a movement measuring a scant 2.89mm thick. Impressive specifications indeed.

The Audemars Piguet RD#2’s Royal Oak case comes in at 6.3mm high, and the movement is a scant 2.89mm thick. It is even thinner than the regular time only AP Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra Thin which is 8.1mm high.

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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2: ultimate thinness in an automatic perpetual calendar watch.

 

But the innovation and technical wizardry which goes beyond the ultra slim aesthetics is also extremely interesting. And very challenging. AP describes in its literature that this feat is akin to collapsing a 3 storey building into a single storey while keeping all the functions and the same footprint. Though we think its more like collapsing 4 layers of a standard automatic perpetual calendar into two. Two layers remain, as full sized rotor counts as layer 1, and the rest of the movement as layer 2. But of course, the rhetoric of 3 into 1 sounds way more sexy.

What I found also interesting is that AP has chosen to encase this in a Royal Oak case, which is a sporty case, not traditionally associated with ultra thin designs. AP’s Chandi Gruber, Head Of Product Management says that they could have encased the movement in an even thinner case, but that would compromise the proportions of the 41mm diameter Royal Oak case, so they decided on 6.3mm, which is already crazy thin! Nice touch, AP!

Currently the Audemars Piguet RD#2 is a concept prototype, only 5 examples have been made, and none currently available for sale. AP will use the prototypes as a model to trickle down to other watches, and we certainly are looking forward to seeing this ultra thin know-how soon.

More on our hands-on analytical review. Soon.

 

Greubel Forsey Différentiel d’Égalité

Greubel Forsey almost never fail to impress with their immensely technical and landscape like designs which invites the observer to explore the dial, movement and the case.

For this year, they have chosen to do something which they have registered as their fifth invention in 2008. A proof of concept demonstrator was shown in 2010, but only this year, it was realised in a watch: the Différentiel d’Égalité, Someone once remarked that using the word d’égalité (French for equality) in the same sentence as Greubel Forsey must count as an oxymoron, as GF watches are known for their complexity and high entry tickets, and hardly “equality” for the common man. But the term d’égalité refers to the constant force system built into the escapement, a complex system, common in pocket watches and first realised in wrist watches by F. P. Journe in his Souverain Tourbillon  d’Égalité,

 

Greubel Forsey Différentiel d’Égalité. To me, the balance of the dial design, the partially open dial to reveal the inclined balance and to expose the remontoir spring, and the invitation to explore is mesmerising.

 

In the Différentiel d’Égalité, the GF team uses their No 4 Invention: which is a mechanism to enable a steady distribution of power from the mainspring barrels to the regulating organ. The mainspring winds a small spring (the remontoir) which discharges once a second to power the balance. In this fashion, the balance is able to keep a constant amplitude for the full duration of 60 hours it takes to deplete the mainspring. The inclined angle of the balance system ensures efficient performance in stable positions.

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Also, through the use of the remontoir GF is able to present their first seconds morte watch. The jumping seconds being a natural consequence of the complex remontoir mechanism. What is also interesting is that the seconds hand is not only stopped when the crown is pulled, but resets to zero.

But also mesmerising is the design of the dial, which is partially open to invite the veiwer to explore the partially revealed movement, and the physical depth in which this design offers.

 

Ressence Type 2 e-Crown

Perhaps the most exciting of all innovations in this year’s show comes from the small Belgian firm of Ressence. We will cover the Type 2 e-Crown in great detail in our full review, but for now, here is the 2 minute elevator pitch.

In short, this is a brilliant embedding of connected technology into a pure mechanical watch. It connects the mechanical movement to the smart phone, and uses the features of the connectivity to the internet to exploit time setting for two timezones. This is a module which sits between the already innovative Ressence ROC system, and communicates by BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) to the iOS or Android device.

The system came about when Ressence chief, Benoît Mintiens asked himself the question, “What if the crown would become irrelevant and be replaced by a self-setting technology made in and for the 21st century?”. Well, the Ressence e-Crown has found a way to make the crown disappear.

 

Ressence Type 3 E-Crown

 

The e-Crown system replaces the crown for setting the time.

All the technobabble catchwords are ticked.

  • Touch screen. Check. The watch’s electronics wake up by double tapping the crystal.
  • Self learning, self monitoring, self adjusting. Check. The e-Crown technology uses a special PCB circuitry to communicate with your smart phone to get the data to set, adjust and monitor.
  • Self sufficient. Check. The electronic system has two systems for power to operate. It has its own rotor (so the watch has two rotors) and a solar cell to keep the capacitor charged to be able to perform its functions. If the mechanical part of the watch stops as it runs out of power reserve, say on a table unworn, the electronic part keeps time continuously. When the watch is restarted, the electronics set the time correctly. And it does this for two timezones.

Brilliant? Watch out for our full review soon. And for our video of Ressence’s Gaëtan Gaye explaining the functions.

 

A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split Chronograph

And perhaps no surprise is the Lange Triple Split. An observer told me, “When Lange announced the Triple Split, the SIHH was over.” Hands down, no competition. Top watch for the show.

The base is the Double Split, but introducing a third split to count the hours of both rattrapante events up to 12 hours is a demanding technical task. Just moving the power reserve indicator from the Double Split’s position under the 12 o’clock index to above the 6 o’clock index is a huge technical feat. And to be able to do that without changing the movement dimensions. Remarkable.

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Lange Triple Split

 

Lange’s first chronograph was the ground breaking Datograph, revealed in 1999. This was followed up in 2004 with the Double Split, the first chronograph, and still (today in 2018) the Double Split is the only chronograph which allows comparative measurement of durations of up to 30 minutes by a split minute totaliser counter. All other rattrapantes only allow the split timings to be read from the central seconds hand, so time differences of up to 1 minute can be measured. The Double Split allows this to extend to 30 minutes. And with the Triple Split, this further extends to 12 hours via a third totaliser counter for the hours. Amazing feat. Is it an essential complication, or one waiting for an application? Perhaps the Triple Split will not be the most useful complication ever, but the technical virtuosity demonstrated in this world premiere is totally exciting. And for this, it is a true marvel.

As usual the visual aesthetics of a Lange chronograph movement is to die for. The Triple Split is no different. Watch out for our full hands-on review coming up soon. And our high resolution, deep macros of the movement in that article.

 

Cartier Révélation d’une Panthère

And here is the big surprise. But an outstandingly innovative one. I usually am taken only by technical watches with interesting complications. But this new Cartier literally took my breath away. Even though it is not a haute horlogerie peice. Even though it is intended as a jewelery ladies timepiece. Its brilliance in design and execution takes my breath away.

It has all the trimmings of a beautiful ladies timepiece. 37mm case in 18k pink gold with 45 brillant cut diamonds totalling 1.64 carats. Handwound Cartier inhouse movement (C.430MC).

 

Cartier Révélation d’une Panthère

 

But what is special, and mind blowing is that the black laquer dial houses a panther motif which is only flittingly revealed with gold beads as the case is moved. The beads is kept in a liquid between two sapphire glass panes. On the wrist, with the 12 o’clock down, it settles down, by force of gravity to the top of the dial. Turning the wrist to see the time, it flows from 12 to 6 o’clock position, and as it makes its way, reveals a panther motif which disappears as the beads settle down at the bottom of the dial merely seconds after. Breathtaking. And brilliant! See the video below to witness this yourself!

 

 

In addition, the Cartier Révélation d’une Panthère has a beaded crown in 18K pink gold set with a brilliant-cut diamond of 0.08 carat, gold-finish steel apple-shaped hands, shiny black alligator-skin strap (additional strap in burgundy alligator skin), double adjustable folding buckle in 18K pink gold set with 43 brilliant-cut diamonds totaling 0.42 carat. Water-resistant to 3 bar (approx. 30 meters).

 

Conclusions

Am I satisfied with this selection? Well, if we take both criteria strictly to account, yes. Would I have liked to include others, yes. One watch which narrowly missed the Top 5, only for reasons that the arbitrary number of 5 have been chosen and I am not allowing any ties is the Ferdinand Berthoud FB1R-1.6. It is a superbly interesting timepiece, designed to pay homage to an original marine chronometer of the same design by F. Berthoud. We will do a full review of this watch, with exclusive sketches and drawings of how it is constructed.

But here you have it. My Geneva Watch Shows Top 5.

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  • Kunal Khemka
    February 1, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    Great Picks. I also loved the:

    Lange 1815 Chronographs in Rose Gold (both dials).
    Lange Saxonia Moonphase and Outsize Date, both in Rose Gold.
    De Bethune new entry-level Titan Hawk.
    Laurent Ferrier Montre Ecole Annual Calendar.
    Cartier Santos.

    Look forward to your review on the Ressence

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