Why just tell the time when you can push the boundaries of innovation? These six new timepieces are at the forefront of watchmaking, says Norman Burns.
Innovation has always been a cornerstone of watchmaking. Whether introducing new materials (such as carbon fibre, special gold alloys and titanium), coming up with radical new designs to “tell” the time (such as Ulysee Nardin’s Freak watch) or blending the digital and mechanical worlds, watchmakers are always looking for a competitive edge. Here are six new timepieces that really push the boundaries of art, design, engineering and technology.
High-end Swiss watchmaker Girard-Perregaux first patented its three bridges design in 1884. With the radical-looking Neo Tourbillon at 6 o’clock on this watch face designed to counter the effects of gravity on the watch movement, Girard-Perregaux takes the concept of skeletonising to a whole new level in a supreme test of micro-engineering. The watch doesn’t have a traditional dial and is ultra-light yet strong, thanks to its sapphire and titanium structure. A micro-rotor within the automatic movement provides up to 60 hours of power reserve for this 45mm timepiece, which will set you back a pretty penny.
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Using Swiss automatic movements from ETA, the German-based MeisterSinger brand has carved out a quirky niche with its fantastic-looking single-hand wristwatches. They’ve now added a moon phase complication for the first time, and a very accurate one — it only needs a slight adjustment once every 128 years. The case back is see-through, too, so you can glimpse the fascinating internal goings-on. The Lunascope comes in two variants, sports a 38-hour power reserve and is big, but not too big, on the wrist at 40mm.
Many high-end brands produce models inspired by classic cars or boats. French watchmaker Bell & Ross has gone one better and designed its own sports plane, the Racing Bird, and launched two new aviation-themed timepieces inspired by the process. Limited to 999 pieces, the 38.5mm V1-92 sports an automatic movement and a clean, sleek, no-fuss dial inspired by cockpit instruments with a neat little plane on the seconds hand. The V2-94 is bigger at 41mm and features more functions, including central chronograph seconds and a 30-minute timer. Both are sure to be snapped up by lovers of fine sports watches.
Swatch proves you don’t have to shell out big bucks for a clever slice of watchmaking with the latest Sistem51 range. The “51” stands for the total number of parts in this mechanically driven watch. Sure, it’s all put together in a computer assembly line, but the Sistem51 is still some smart out-of-the-box thinking from Swatch. For the first time in a Swatch watch, the Skin Irony models feature metal cases, and at 5.8mm thin are the slimmest Swatches yet.
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Resplendent with a dazzling red crown, rubber strap, accented markers and “liquid hour marker”, the HYT H0 x Eau Rouge is a stunning piece of wrist bling. At 48.8mm wide and 18.7mm high, the Eau Rouge packs “wow” in spades and is crammed with some seriously inventive engineering, such as the use of two non-mixing fluids in the liquid time display. The manual winding movement provides 65 hours of power reserve, too.
This Ulysse Nardin off-the-wall “Freak” rocked the world of luxury watchmaking in 2001, pioneering the use of ultra-light silicium. Then there’s the crazy “Grinder” automatic movement system (the Freak Vision has no winding crown — indeed, it has no hands). Incredibly, the rotation of the movement itself indicates the time via a “flying carousel”. A technical tour de force.