Hot Watches and Hollywood A-Listers at SIHH in Geneva

6:00 AM 1/15/2019

by Laurie Brookins

The annual trade fair for status timepieces kicked off Monday. Here's a first look at some of the most anticipated debuts.

The Ouevre d'Or by Ferdinand Berthoud
The Ouevre d'Or by Ferdinand Berthoud
Courtesy of brand

Fans of status timepieces will be focused on Geneva this week, as the 29th edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (forget about that mouthful and just call it SIHH) runs through Thursday.

This gathering of 35 storied watch brands ranges from major players like Cartier, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Montblanc (all brands under the umbrella of Richemont, which founded this annual event in 1990) to more esoteric, boutique-level watchmakers like Speake-Marin, Voutilainen and HYT.

The four-day event also attracts a healthy contingent of Hollywood A-listers: James Marsden and Rosamund Pike are among the attendees expected at tonight's annual IWC gala, while Amanda Seyfried, Daniel Brühl and Nicholas Hoult will make an appearance at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s exhibit. Pierce Brosnan, who appears in campaigns for Speake-Marin, was also spotted on Saturday afternoon in the lobby of Geneva’s Hotel President Wilson (he wore a piece by Peter Speake-Marin in the 2015 film Survivor; the watchmaker was a consultant on that film, a gig that led to Brosnan becoming the brand’s ambassador).

The first major watch event of the year, SIHH is an ideal yardstick for measuring both the year’s timepiece trends and the overall health and creativity of the Swiss watch industry. (Blue continues to dominate color trends, for example, while yellow gold has been making a comeback among metal choices.) Here’s a preview of notable 2019 pieces soon to arrive in stores:

  • Audemars Piguet Code 11.59

    Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak is an iconic watch, beloved by fans that include Jay-Z, LeBron James and James Corden, so it’s no small story when the brand announces a completely new collection. With great fanfare on Saturday evening (in Le Brassus, the Swiss village where the brand’s manufacturer is located), Audemars Piguet debuted the Code 11.59, a collection comprised of 13 references, each featuring a satin or polished 41mm case in either 18-karat white or rose gold. The name is derived from the notion that, as 11:59 p.m. is one minute before a new day, the future and its possibilities are endless.

    Among the 13 styles, the most eye-catching has to be the Code 11.59 Perpetual Calendar — priced at $74,500. Crafted in 18-karat rose gold with a dial in blue aventurine glass, it features the same ultra-thin automatic movement you’ll find in the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. The sandwich-like styling of the case is also meant to evoke thoughts of AP’s most famous model, with an octagonal middle positioned between a round bezel and case back.

  • Ferdinand Berthoud Ouevre d'Or

    Chopard launched this luxury watch brand in 2015, but the famed jewelry and watch house pointedly abstains from inserting its name into conversations about models from this decidedly boutique company. Named for an 18th-century watchmaker, Ferdinand Berthoud is treated as an independent house, tasked with the fine art and craft of intricate timepieces that take their cue from the life of the man considered to be the father of the marine chronometer.

    The latest to exemplify these ideas is the Oeuvre d’Or, and indeed, this “artwork of gold” is pretty breathtaking. Limited to just five numbered pieces each in 18-karat white or rose gold, the 44mm Oeuvre d’Or features a striking dial in 18-karat yellow gold that’s been hand-engraved and burnished in a subtle patina, while features include a patented tourbillon and a 53-hour power reserve. The white-gold edition also is embellished with 20 baguette-cut diamonds along the side of the case, a bit of glimmer that doesn’t distract from the beauty of the dial. It’s priced at 262,000 Swiss francs.

  • Bovet Virtuoso IX

    The latest from Bovet’s Amadeo convertible system, which allows the wearer to alternate between using the piece as a pocket watch, wristwatch or table clock, the 46.30mm Virtuoso IX offers a lot of features without seeming too busy. The hour hand is offset at the 2 o’clock position, while a second time zone is featured at 10 o’clock. Flanking the flying tourbillon is a 10-day power reserve at 8 o’clock and a wonderfully clear big-date indicator at 4 o’clock, all on an engraved dial of blue enamel. Price upon request. 

  • Cartier Baignoire Allongée Celadon

    Cartier’s Libre Collection is aptly named, as it’s all about design freedom in women’s watches. For 2019 the house has created a quartet of high-jewelry watches that take their cues from icons of the house. Part of Cartier since 1912, the Baignoire features an elliptical dial and proudly embraces its name, which is French for bathtub. For 2019, the house created a pair of Baignoire Allongée watches, and this duo of “elongated bathtubs” is crafted either in 18-karat yellow gold with yellow sapphires, spinels and diamonds, or this celadon model in 18-karat white gold, embellished with 573 brilliant-cut diamonds and a tonal mix of emeralds and Paraiba tourmalines. Each is numbered and limited to 50 pieces; price is upon request.

  • Armin Strom Dual Time Resonance Sapphire

    If you’re looking for accuracy in two time zones, Armin Strom offers a solution that’s as simple as it is thrillingly complex: two independent watch movements within one case, which because of their close proximity, ultimately sync up with each other. It’s not a new idea; indeed, this duality in oscillation has been discussed as far back as the 17th century, but Armin Strom is one of the few current watchmakers eager to dive into the deep end and celebrate how such a theory can result in ultimate precision in a dual-time watch.

    And if you’re going to build a pair of movements that perform a sort of timekeeping ballet within one case, why not showcase your work? That’s the idea behind the Dual Time Resonance Sapphire, with the two movements housed in a case completely crafted of sapphire crystal to offer a 360-degree transparent look at the inner workings. It’s a sizeable piece – 59mm x 43.4mm – but that also allows an effortless read of each dial (understandable if you’ve ever squinted to read the hour on a tiny subdial in a dual-time watch).

    The two guillochéd dials are also crafted in different shades of blue, allowing the wearer to decide if the light blue is always set to the home time and the navy to an alternate city, or vice versa. Individual power-reserve indicators for each movement and one 24-hour indicator situated between the two dials complete this wholly unique watch, which is limited to just eight pieces and is expected to retail for 280,000 Swiss francs.

  • Girard-Perregaux Cat’s Eye Tourbillon Aventurine

    With their subtle sparkle, aventurine dials seem to be omnipresent in high-end watch collections at the moment, either crafted from the natural quartz stone, which is most often a dark bluish-green in color, or of man-made aventurine glass, also known as goldstone. Aventurine glass is often crafted on Murano, the island near Venice known for its glassmaking workshops, and it’s the romance of those artisans that inspired the latest Cat’s Eye collection by Girard-Perregaux.

    Among the debuts, the Cat’s Eye Tourbillon Aventurine is designed to evoke thoughts of the night sky, with the 36 baguette-cut diamonds on the dial meant to conjure images of shooting stars. Another 54 baguette-cut diamonds embellish the oval case, while features include a 70-hour power reserve and small seconds on the tourbillon. Price is upon request.