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The Best of SIHH 2012

written by A.Morgan - 23rd Jan 2012

The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie is an annual watch show held by Richemont strictly for Richemont brands and partners only, and this year’s turnout was bigger and more impressive than ever.

There were a whole host of new models and updated existing ones, more than was previously expected, and these are our favourite three:

IWC is expanding its Pilot’s range with three new watches, one being the retro-styled Top Gun Miramar, another the Mark XVII, but our favourite is the Worldtimer (Image 1). At 45mm, it may be growing too much for most (although the original WWII pilots watches were much larger), but the clearly laid out and ultra-functional time zone indicator really looks the part. It even has a twenty four hour indicator for the second time zone that is coloured black and white to keep easy track of the change from day to night.

A big surprise is the news that the Royal Oak will now be offered at 41mm – up 2mm from the previous model that has been untouched in size since its launch in 1972 – but to counter the inevitable protests from the die-hard fans, Audemars Piguet have also released a re-edition of the very first version of the Royal Oak too (Image 2). Affectionately known as the ‘Jumbo’ because of its then outsized proportions, the new version is all about the details; the second hand has gone, the ‘AP’ logo is back at the bottom half of the dial, and of course, it remains at 39mm. Even the movement, the Jaeger-LeCoultre-derived Calibre 2121, is the same as the original.

The aluminium F. P. Journe Octa Sport weighs in at just 53g, the same as two bags of crisps

The watch that caught our eye for its sheer audacity and technical achievement was the Richard Mille RM056 Sapphire (Image 3). Of course, the crystal is made from the usual synthetic sapphire, but so too is the rest of the case, including the crown and the pushers. This gives Richard Mille the opportunity to show off the exquisite skeletonized movement from the RM008 and also to charge a breath-taking $1.65 million for the privilege…! To complete the look the rubber strap is also translucent, and hopefully very secure too, as the brittle sapphire could prove very expensive if dropped.

The Best of the Rest

With people from all around the world gathering to visit SIHH, it presents a good opportunity for other, non-Richemont brands to preview some of their new releases as well. These were our favourites:

Adding to their hugely impressive Sports line is F. P. Journe’s Octa Sport (Image 4), a super-lightweight aluminium version of the brand’s Octa. To reduce weight from the standard watch, not only is the case machined from aluminium alloy, but so too is the movement. When I say this thing is light, I mean it is ridiculously light. The loupe I had to look at it through felt heavier. Most impressive is that the extreme weight reduction isn’t at the expense of features; with small seconds, big date, power reserve indicator displaying how much of the five day power reserve is left and a day and night indicator, the Octa Sport is one of the best modern sports watches available right now.

Urwerk's masterpiece, the UR-1001 pocket watch, is finally here, and it's an impressive bit of kit

Urwerk were in town, and the final prototypes for the mind-boggling UR-1001 pocket watch were ready for viewing (Image 5). Big, heavy and amazingly complicated, it contains so many things to look at that I nearly missed my next appointment by staring at it for too long. Nothing is standard here; even the smallest cog is designed and made in such a way that has never been seen before. I don’t think I’d ever want to wear it as a pocket watch for fear of being constantly bruised and battered by it, but if I could afford one, I would have put down a deposit there and then. Truly spectacular.

Not strictly a new release, but something far more impressive in the flesh than I first realised, was the MB&F HM4 Razzle Dazzle/Double Trouble combo (Image 6). The pin-up paintings are barely a centimetre high, but the detail is beyond impressive. Painted by hand using a single haired brush for three weeks each, the pin-ups are almost unbelievable. Even under heavy magnification do they stand up to scrutiny, with details such as individual eyelashes clearly visible.

It is almost impossible to believe that this hand-painted pin-up is barely a centimetre high.

With all these great releases and more coming up in less than two months’ time at Baselworld 2012, it’s a good year to be watch fan. Keep checking back because we’ll be doing some in depth reviews of our favourites over the next few months.

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