Ahead of times - Issue 81 - Magazine | Monocle

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Fine margins. At the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, that’s what watchmaking boils down to. The majority of the 16 brands on show here – most of them part of the Swiss luxury-goods group Richemont – boast a long and rich heritage, and manufacturing facilities in Switzerland. As a result, what distinguishes one new model from any other at SIHH is often a small but ambitious detail.

Parmigiani Fleurier launched a new piece in the Tonda 1950 series called the Special Edition Meteorite, which has a thin layer of rock on the face taken from a meteor that fell to earth thousands of years ago. Not to be outdone, Jaeger-LeCoultre also released a new edition of its Master Calendar with a layer of meteorite on the watchface. If ceramic was last year’s material of choice it seems extraterrestrial metals are the surprise entry of 2015.

Officine Panerai introduced a submersible watch, in keeping with its history as supplier of the Italian navy’s timepieces. Its case was the vehicle for another new material, this one invented in Panerai’s laboratories: Carbotech, which is based on carbon fibre with a rough-hewn layered effect.

While some brands were looking to construct the watch of the future, across the hall of Geneva’s Palexpo exhibition centre there was iwc Schaffhausen going in the opposite direction, casting its gaze back to the beginnings of its most successful line: the Portugieser. The design, inspired by 1930s marine chronometers, has been retained and the modifications are slight. “The Portugieser line has a pure design and is easy to read,” says Goris Verburg, the brand’s marketing director. “There’s no need for guillochage [engravings] or decorations.”

Just a few days before the start of SIHH 2015, the Swiss National Bank decided to stop pegging the franc to the euro, thus raising the cost of Swiss exports overnight. Although fears were voiced that this might impact sales for the year ahead, it didn’t seem to deter the brands present. “Being a brand with 168 years of history, we’ve been through crises, wars and revolutions,” says Arnaud Carrez from Cartier. “We’ve always managed our way. I don’t have any worries about what’s happening now.”

Top 5 timepieces

  1. Panerai, Firenze
    This is Panerai’s homage to the brand’s hometown of Florence. Just 99 of these will be made and they will only be sold from the city’s new boutique.

  2. Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak
    The Swiss brand has updated its Royal Oak for women with this two-tone piece in stainless steel and 18-carat pink gold. Forty diamonds are set in the pink-gold bezel.

  3. IWC, Annual Calendar
    One of the new watches in IWC’s updated Portugieser line, this Annual Calendar has a midnight-blue face and stainless-steel case.

  4. Ralph Lauren, RL Automotive
    Inspired by classic cars from the 1930s, this watch has a bezel made from rare amboyna burl, alluding to the design of a dashboard and steering wheel.

  5. Parmigiani, Meteorite
    The Tonda 1950 Special Edition Meteorite is available in either black or blue. Only 25 of each colour will be made due to the rarity of the material.

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