It's Complicated: High design and mind-blowing mechanics merge to combine form and function.
If you think you know the story behind Officine Panerai's ascent to watchmaking glory, think again. In 1997, when Compagnie Financiere Richemont bought the Florentine watch and instrument manufacturer, the firm had a rich history, but almost no name recognition. That's because fewer than 300 Panerais were produced between 1938--when the company began manufacturing its Radiomir model for the Italian Navy's elite frogmen--and 1993, when its watches first went on sale to a wider public.
In the two decades since the upstart brand vaulted to prominence, Panerai has earned a core following of zealous collectors, known as Paneristi. Credited with kicking off the industry's size craze in the late 1990s, after Sylvester Stallone fell for the oversize Panerai Luminor Marina while filming the action film Daylight in Rome in 1995, the brand became sought-after for its fascinating history and glamorous Italian style. In recent years, however, Panerai has turned its attention inward--literally. At its Haute Horlogerie manufacture in Neuchatel, Switzerland, watchmakers and engineers have devoted years to creating mechanisms that will forever link the Panerai name with horological excellence.
Exhibit A: the Radiomir 1940 Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon GMT. Introduced in May of 2016 at Panerai's "Dive into Time" exhibition at the Marino Marini Museum in Florence, the model is the most complicated timepiece Panerai has ever produced.
Let's start with the minute-repeater mechanism. Not only mastering the complication equivalent to scaling the top of the watchmaking pyramid, Panerai's version offers a practical, and even more complex, twist: While traditional minute repeaters chime time in 15-minute segments, this model sounds triple chimes of an intermediate note every 10 minutes. The innovation reduces the number of chimes, making it easier to tell the time.
Even more remarkable is the fact that the repeater function can be activated both for local time and for a second time zone, indicated on the dial by the central arrow hand and the a.m./p.m. indicator on the counter at 3 o'clock. Despite the intricate engineering required to enable what is, in essence, a double-hour and minute-repeater mechanism, the functionality remains simple and intuitive.
As if all that weren't enough, the hand-wound, skeletonized movement also boasts an intelligent take on a tourbillon regulator. Instead of a balance cage that rotates continuously once a minute, canceling out any variations caused by gravity and possible shocks, Panerai's tourbillon cage rotates every 30 seconds, on an axis that is perpendicular, not parallel, to that of the balance--two adjustments intended to bring even more precision to the timekeeping mechanism.
Available on a made-to-order basis, the 49 mm timepiece comes in an 18-karat red-gold case that can be personalized with the client's choice of strap, hands, and/or case material. panerai.com; starting around $400,000
Parmigiani Toric Hemispheres Retrograde
To the untrained eye, the Toric Hemispheres Retrograde from Parmigiani Fleurier presents an especially refined take on the dual-time-zone wrist-watch, ideal for globe-trotters and armchair travelers alike. To those familiar with Parmigiani founder Michel Parmigiani's background in antique watch and clock restoration, however, the 22-karat rose-gold timepiece represents everything his contemporary brand has accomplished since its founding in 1996.
The Toric case of the model, with its signature knurled bezel, appeared on Parmigiani's first-ever creation, some two decades ago. In 2010, the brand introduced the Tonda Hemispheres, a wristwatch featuring a single caliber capable of controlling two time zones, without compromising accuracy. The piece was derived from a pocket watch, serviced in Parmigiani's restoration workshop, containing two movements inside a single case, each responsible for its own time zone. The Toric Hemispheres Retrograde shown here unites the twin accomplishments described above into a single handsome model. Is it any wonder the piece is a finalist in the Travel Time category of this year's prestigious Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Geneve, a.k.a., the Oscars of watchmaking? parmigiani.com; $29,500
Dior VIII Montaigne Tissage Precieux Cannage
In 1947, Christian Dior joined the ranks of the world's most influential couturiers. Seventy years later, the maison he built honors his pioneering legacy with a limited edition of eight 36 mm timepieces inspired by traditional French textile weaves: cannage, herringbone, and houndstooth. The Dior VIII Montaigne Tissage Precieux Cannage renders the distinguished cannage pattern--a weaving technique originally incorporating natural rattan--in pink gold, diamonds, and delicate gold threads. With its diamond-set bezel, rose-cut diamond-set crown, caseback decorated with cannage-pauemed pink gold, and herringbone ribbon strap--fastened by a pink gold buckle set with diamonds--the timepiece is a fitting tribute to Monsieur Dior's deft styling, dior.com; price upon request
Vacheron Constantin Metiers d'Art Elegance Sartoriale
High-end menswear and haute horlogerie make a fine pair in Vacheron Constantin's year-old Metiers d'Art Elegance Sartoriale collection, which captures the subtle and masterful craftsmanship of finely woven cloth by translating five traditional menswear patterns--Prince of Wales check, herringbone, windowpane, tartan, and the pinstripes seen here--into guilloche and Grand Feu enamel. From the delicate hues favored by the maison's master enamelers to the gadrooned pattern around the rim of the dial that, much like a hem, lends each timepiece its structure, the techniques pay homage to the tradition and culture of bespoke tailoring. To achieve the pinstripe pattern, a layer of linen-colored translucent Grand Feu enamel is placed atop the dial, which has been incised with tiny grooves in thin gold plates. Combined with translucent enamels, the process intensifies the guilloche motif. Meanwhile, the champagne-colored tapestry gold dial at 3 o'clock, the hour circle in mother-of-pearl, and black painted Roman numerals only add to the model's handsome aesthetic. vacheron-constantin.com; $54,100
Hublot Big Bang Unico Sang Bleu High Jewellery
Since its founding, in 1980, Hublot has championed a philosophy known as "fusion."
Akin to gestalt theory, the principle is based on the notion that by uniting disparate techniques, materials, and cultures, a manufacture can create a whole that will be greater than the sum of its parts. In 2016, the watchmaker advanced that theory when it announced a partnership with Maxime Buchi, founder of London-based Sang Bleu, a tattoo artist popular with the music and fashion crowd. A native of Lausanne, Switzerland, Buchi trained as a graphic designer and typographer at the city's ECAL University of Art and Design. Under the tutelage of tattoo artist Filip Leu, he turned his artistic eye to the ancestral art of skin decoration.
As an ambassador for Hublot, Buchi brought two seemingly contrasting worlds--high-end mechanics and primitive artistry--together in a collaboration that embodied the very essence of fusion. For their second collaboration, which debuted in March, Hublot and Sang Bleu unveiled the Big Bang Unico Sang Bleu High Jewellery in King Gold, a 45 mm wrist-watch that defies easy categorization.
Between the 518 baguette diamonds on the case, 260 white-diamond baguettes on the dial, a black veal strap set with 46 white diamond baguettes, and its King Gold bezel, the timepiece makes a blinding style statement. But for connoisseurs, the in-house Unico movement that ticks beneath its glittery exterior is just as dazzling, hublot.com; $843,000
Franck Muller Vanguard 7 Days Power Reserve Skeleton
Among aficionados and collectors of fine timepieces, a pilgrimage to Watchland, Franck Muller's storied headquarters in Genthod, Switzerland, is de rigueur. Home to the independent watchmaker's design and production facilities, the elegant estate near the shores of Lake Leman--the very place where the legendary horologist got his start in 1983--hosts a yearly showcase of new timepieces by brands affiliated with or owned by the Franck Muller Group. It was at the January 2017 edition of WPHH (the World Presentation of Haute Horlogerie) that the Vanguard 7 Days Power Reserve Skeleton made its debut.
Boasting Franck Muller's signature tonneau-shaped silhouette, the 44 mm-by-53.7 mm model comes in a case fashioned from a surprising combination of materials: carbon, PVD-treated titanium, stainless steel, and 18-karat gold. Yet it's the lack of material that ultimately makes the biggest impression: Owing to its spare, skeletonized movement--designed and built entirely in-house--the model has a refined geometry of hand-chamfered bridges encased in a sturdy, sporty Vanguard case. The second counter at 6 o'clock and the exceptional seven-day power reserve are welcome bonuses. franckmuller.com; $43,800
Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Artistica Mysterieuse
At first glance, the most striking feature of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Artistica Mysterieuse is its intricate dial, which bears a filigreed pattern evoking the stained glass windows of a Gothic cathedral (the pattern is mimicked on the back). The artistry, however, distracts one from the timepiece's real achievement: The watch conveys the time without the benefit of hands. To read the hour, simply find the tourbillon's position on the dial; the minutes appear on the flange disc.
The mystery movement at the heart of this unforgettable timepiece is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 941. Hand-assembled to exact specifications at the brand's manufacture in Le Sentier, Switzerland, the movement was built to accommodate a new orbital flying tourbillon, a new oscillating weight, and a new pointed-arch-shaped carriage.
Limited to five pieces, the watch's elegant mechanics are matched only by its graceful aesthetic, which includes a flying tourbillon that journeys around a blue aventurine dial overlaid by a geometric lacework of skeletonized mother-of-pearl--all contained within a 42 mm case of polished pink gold, jaeger-lecoultre.com; price upon request
Chanel Monsieur de Chanel
In 2000, Chanel upended the world of Swiss watchmaking with the debut of the J12, a wildly popular ceramic timepiece that heralded a serious, if fashion-forward, new player in the category. That reputation was further strengthened in 2005, when Chanel presented the J12 Tourbillon, the house's first effort at high complications. The Monsieur de Chanel collection unveiled at the Baselworld fair in March 2016 is the brand's latest effort at horological supremacy. With its sleek black Grand Feu enamel dial and black alligator strap, the 40 mm platinum model (introduced in 2017) is the perfect complement to a tuxedo--exquisite, sophisticated, and spare. But its real beauty lies within. Equipped with two integrated complications, an instant jumping hour and a 240-degree retrograde minute, the manual-winding mechanical movement--limited to 100 pieces--comes with a three-day power reserve. chanel.com; $63,000
Ralph Lauren Minute Repeater
In the hierarchy of horological complications, the minute repeater, a mechanical watch function that chimes the time at the press of a button, is considered among the most difficult to produce. It's a testament to Ralph Lauren's extraordinary leap into fine watchmaking that the legendary fashion designer's timepiece collection now includes one. The singular piece owes its good looks to its art deco design. Consider the hand guilloched dial: Created by a master engraver working on an antique rose engine, the intricate barleycorn pattern features 80 waves spiraling from the center of the watch to the bezel. The small seconds subdial at the 6 o'clock position serves as a subtle reference to the period's graceful geometry. The hand-wound RL888 movement possesses a 100-hour power reserve. To hear the chiming of the time, simply activate the slide piece on the side of the thin, 42 mm white-gold case and listen up for three distinct sounds, each chiming the hours, quarter-hours, and minutes. At press time, the one-of-a-kind timepiece was touring Asia. Collectors are clamoring for its swift return. ralphlauren.com; $200,000
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|Title Annotation:||HIGH DESIGN|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2017|
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