Exquisite pieces from Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, De Bethune, and MB&F promise to captivate the consummate watch collector.
Vacheron Constantin did not combine the chronograph and perpetual calendar in a wristwatch until 1992—well into the modern era. But this particular combination of complications has become so prized by collectors that the company has made a number of modifications to its offering to keep up with the best of its Genevan rivals. The latest Traditionnelle Chronograph Perpetual Calendar, though it looks much like the iteration originally released in 2009, differs in an important way. The platinum version carries the Geneva Seal with its highest level of finishing as well as a number of chronometric improvements. The brand has increased the frequency to 3 hertz, and has dispensed with the swan’s neck regulator in favor of a free-sprung balance. This model retains the well-regarded Lemania chronograph movement as a base, even as its use tails off among the Geneva brands. Vacheron Constantin’s own in-house Harmony chronograph movement will require a specially designed perpetual calendar module, a modification, no doubt, awaiting a later date. Vacheron Constantin, 877.862.7555, (vacheron-constantin.com)
30 percent reduction in volume is not only the technical hallmark of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon, but also the chief characteristic in a new approachable style of complicated watchmaking in which the Vallée de Joux manufacture is a lead proponent. The brand has managed to cram its signature high-speed multi-axis tourbillon into a space equivalent to one of the company’s normal Reverso models without any compromises to its case shape. The miniaturization is accomplished with a new, spare cage and a wholly redesigned bearing and drive system that is capable of powering the company’s advanced-geometry balance wheel and hemispherical hairspring to even higher speeds than the original model. The smaller movement, visible on one side with an engraved, openworks treatment, creates a more understated and personal interpretation of a complication originally noted for its theatricality. In this more subdued, yet still highly technical style of watchmaking, Jaeger-LeCoultre is making its top pieces far more wearable and thus more enjoyable for daily life. Jaeger-LeCoultre, 800.552.8463, (jaeger-lecoultre.com)
In form and color, De Bethune’s DB28 Kind of Blue Tourbillon is otherworldly in appearance—as clear a statement of individuality as anyone could strap to their wrist. Yet the naturally heat-blued titanium tourbillon also stands as a statement about the gulf between De Bethune’s capabilities and what other companies might add to their watches. In recent years some of the features evident in the original DB28 tourbillon, including polished titanium; unconventional balance design; and ultralight, high-frequency tourbillon construction—competencies long mastered at De Bethune—have begun to appear piecemeal elsewhere in the industry. Heat blueing titanium, however, is a highly specialized process that few companies could attempt, let alone perfect at such a scale and consistency. De Bethune, +41.22.310.2271, (debethune.ch)
With only a few structural elements, the new HM8 from Maximilian Büsser and Friends (MB&F) somehow manages to evoke a sense of speed like few modern watches. Like the company’s HM5, it is clearly a driving watch with its side-wrist time display. Twin roll bars in polished titanium and a powerful cylindrical cross-section hint at the dramatic aerodynamic curves of the virtually unlimited class of Can-Am racecars of the late 1960s/early ’70s (think Porsche 917), which is the brand’s principle source of inspiration for this model. The movement sits perfectly placed, like one of the purring, oversize engines of the era. The genius of this piece is that it avoids any of the obvious references to cars or racing that might have ensnared other designers. Instead the suggestion is made with minimalist—but deadly accurate—placement of shapes and curves. MB&F, 888.884.0838, (mbandf.com)
Robb Report | Dec 2016