The 2016 SIHH watch salon in Geneva confirmed the ongoing appreciation for skeletonisation and openworked watches, awarding the movement a starring role in the aesthetics department. No longer left to languish behind a dial and a caseback, the movement is the star of the show, and four out of the five candidates I have chosen as my top men’s watches from the SIHH are doing a Full Monty to catch your attention.
Is there a magician in the house? After seeing the line-up of Cartier watches this year, we all know who’s wearing the top hat and tails when it comes to horological illusion. Mystery clocks fascinated Louis Cartier and, in 1912, the world marvelled at the first mystery clock with hands that seemed to float in space. The new Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux watch takes the concept of the mystery watch to unprecedented heights as the entire movement completes a one-hour rotation. Organised on a central axis, the escapement, gear train, balance wheel and hands perform a gracious aerial ballet as they orbit around the empty dial, like a tourbillon in slow motion. Cartier, the “master of mystery”, has achieved this hypnotising effect by assembling the components around four sapphire discs that animate the whole. Housed in a 43.5mm palladium case with a transparent caseback, the Roman numerals on the flange and the sapphire cabochon in the crown are très Cartier.
Further magical movements unveiled at the SIHH were displayed on Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, to coincide with the Reverso’s 85th birthday. Familiar as we are with the sleek rectangular profile of this Art Deco hero, the effect of seeing a bi-axial flying tourbillon in its case is a revelation. Usually reserved for larger, round-shaped watches with plenty of room for the tourbillon to perform its acrobatics, the width and height of the Gyrotourbillon were trimmed down by 30% to fit inside its new habitat. Visible on both sides of the reversible case, the Gyrotourbillon seems to float in its own orbit. The front of the Reverso features graphic sunburst guilloché decoration on the bridges, and to the left of the hour and minutes dial a small day and night indicator. However, if you swivel the platinum case on these men’s watches, the reverse dial offers an entirely different mood with a hand-engraved and decorated openworked movement, and a dual-time display and day/night indicator to set your home time while travelling.
When it comes to top-of-the-range Panerai watches, the Lo Scienziato line, dedicated to Galileo Galilei, welcomed a very special guest this year with a skeletonised tourbillon calibre made from titanium. Considering the size of the case - 47mm - and the wealth of functions including hours, minutes, small seconds, GMT with night/day indication, tourbillon and a hefty power reserve of six days, the case of the Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Titanio is surprisingly light. Although titanium is 40% lighter than steel, Panerai wanted to reduce the weight even further and recurred to an innovative technology - known as Direct Metal Laser Sintering - allowing the case to be hollowed out internally without compromising its 100 metre water-resistance. The P.2005 hand-wound movement has also been skeletonised and dispenses with a traditional dial, attaching the hour markers directly to the flange. A prodigious feat of lightness and elegance, the anthracite grey colour of the brushed titanium case is echoed on the alligator strap.
Montblanc’s 4810 collection celebrates the golden age of transatlantic ocean crossings when liners vied for the Blue Riband award for speed. Three versions of these men’s watches, with miniature hand-painted maps representing the continents of Asia, America and Europe, are designed to evoke the theme of travel and feature an ExoTourbillon at 6 o’clock spinning in 60-second rotations to double up as a small seconds counter. Inside the 42mm gold case, automatic calibre MB 29.24 with a quick stop-second mechanism offers 50 hours of autonomy and is powered by a micro-rotor to allow for a full view of the movement through the sapphire caseback. All three Montblanc watches are limited editions and are fitted with a black alligator strap and a white gold pin buckle.
To mark its 20th anniversary, Parmigiani Fleurier presented its first integrated chronograph movement built from scratch and placed it inside the handsome case of the Tonda collection to become the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire model. As the brand admits, an integrated chronograph is “the Holy Grail for a watch manufacture” since most chronograph watches settle for a chronograph module placed on top of a base movement. The new manual-winding PF361 movement is in charge of all the functions on board: the chronograph, the time functions, the split-seconds and the large date window, which are all mounted on the same main plate. Presented in a 42.10mm white or rose gold case with a rich royal blue or white Grand Feu enamel, the dial features a classic tri-compax layout. However, since we are on the subject of beautiful mechanical movements, if you flip the watch over you will see the sumptuous rose gold movement in all its splendour.
Read about our favourite mechanical watches from the SIHH 2016