There’s been a pervading sense of dread lingering in the air for quite some time, but following SIHH 2018 (Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie) the fog of uncertainty seems to be lifting. After a year that saw the industry recover slightly, hopes are that the industry’s clientele are done hibernating and ready to kick off 2018 with the ringing of cash registers the world over.
Brands are doing their bit to facilitate the current upswing, by continuing to aggressively expand their entry-level collections. In addition to wider array of options for first-time or budget buyers, brands seem to be more willing to acknowledge their own failed endeavours.
A noticeable reduction in novelties, as well as a brutal – and long-overdue – cull of bloated chapters in their brand catalogues, has left the major players in the most competitive segments streamlined and better able to focus their efforts on giving the people what they want. Not, in contrast to previous years, what they want them to want…
On that buoyant note, let’s take a look at my favourite pieces from SIHH 2018 – one for the collector who’s ready to take the leap from entry- to mid-level pieces, and one for the seasoned aficionado who has dollar tree in their orchard.
Value Beyond Hype
Cartier is a brand I find myself talking about more frequently than it occupies my own mind or wish list. But as one of Richemont’s flagship models it has benefitted from the group’s recent change of direction.
The new rash of Santos models released at SIHH 2018 has been well received, and for good reason. An overall slimming down of the case and bracelet is in line with the current trend of more versatile watches. Its heftier diameters (39.8mm – pretty big for a square watch) remain as an option for the broader wristed among us, but the real advancement here can be found in new bracelet technology that enables swift switching between styles thanks to a reliable and secure button release. Additionally, certain links have a quick release function, which enables ad hoc resizing for those warmer days. The pick of the bunch for me is the steel and gold model in the larger size, priced at a tempting $10,400. Not bad for a classic piece from a stalwart brand, now using their own in-house, anti-magnetic movements to power the show.
One for the Technophiles
For those of us who love seeing the new and creative way in which modern technology can be integrated into ‘traditional’ watches, the runaway winner from SIHH 2018 has to be the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown.
I’ve long been a fan of this quirky little Belgian brand, and their continued existence and trailblazing development suggests I’m not alone. My favourite model from them prior to this release was the Ressence Type 5 – a bold reimagining of a dive watch that managed to be innovative, and weirdly classical (in a functional, if not aesthetic sense) all at once.
The newly unveiled Type 2 makes a powerful statement about the brand’s vision of the future. No Ressence watch features a traditional crown, due to the physical impossibility of teaming a hermetically sealed oil chamber (the unique Ressence Orbital Convex System, or ROCS) with a centrally located stem that would, in effect, ‘pierce’ the sealed chamber or throw the whole thing out of whack stylistically. To get around this, Ressence developed a mind-bogglingly complex case back setting mechanism, which has now been joined by a Bluetooth connected crown. This means your ‘traditional’ automatic watch will now keep perfect time thanks to an ever-active connection to your smartphone. This is a great, practically peerless example of how modern tech can positively influence traditional watchmaking.
Innovative is the word. Too often is it used in this industry, but Ressence deserve the title wholeheartedly. With no official pricing available at this time, the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown is expected to retail in the region of $50,000. Mad as it sounds, it’s a snip at that price.
About the Author
Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.