Opting out of Baselworld this year, the Swatch Group pulls off its debut Time To Move experience in and around the watchmaking regions of Switzerland with vision, aplomb and a dizzying array of new watches to behold

SINGAPORE (July 18): Now that the kerfuffle surrounding the Swatch Group’s decision to extricate itself from the Baselworld behemoth has settled, the main question that has been on the minds of those in the industry — was the decision a sound one? — has been answered. After three intense days of presentations and immersion in six of the group’s luxury brands, the conclusion is this: Yes, it was. Among the international assembly of journalists who had gathered for the inaugural Time To Move 2019, the consensus is that this might be the best and most proactive way forward. Journalists had the luxury of undivided attention. Press presentations were conducted mostly in situ (with the exception of Glashütte Original) and complemented by tours of the manufactures. And pleasantly absent were the din, hubbub and sometimes chao tic scurrying that is the hallmark of all trade fairs.

Time To Move, spread out among watchmaking cradles such as La Chaux-de-Fonds, the Vallée de Joux and Geneva, proffered an intense but in-depth and deeply engaging experience of the Swatch Group’s high-end universe. Six chosen brands had half a day each to impress the hororati (our horological take on the literati). And none disappointed. From Blancpain’s new timepieces and those from Breguet (which also treated guests to a viewing of the one-ofa-kind Marie Antoinette pocket watch No 1160 — many journalists remarked this alone was worth the journey to Switzerland); to Omega’s out-of-this-world presentations, complete with space shuttle launch countdowns; Jaquet Droz’s métiers d’art masterpieces; Harry Winston’s multi-carat collection, and Glashütte Original’s top-flight Teutonic timekeepers, here are but six worth serious contemplation.

Diana Khoo is editor of the Options desk at The Edge Malaysia


HARRY WINSTON

Marilyn Monroe might have exhorted Harry Winston, the legendary King of Diamonds, to talk to her and tell her all about it in the hit song Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend from the 1953 musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but the piece from the brand that spoke to us most at Time To Move 2019 was the Premier Precious Peacock Automatic 36mm.

The exotic peacock has long served as an inspiration to the New York brand, having taken the starring role in several iconic creations, from its famous peacock black opal brooch (now part of the Smithsonian Museum’s collection) to a series of 36mm peacock feather dials for its Premier Ladies collection that employed the delicate art of plumasserie a few years ago.

The house’s excellence in gemstones and gem-setting needs no introduction, but this year it featured the additional métier d’art of mosaics. The Italian city Ravenna, located between Florence and Venice, is renowned the world over for its mastery in mosaics. Historians and art aficionados would already be familiar with the former Roman imperial port’s numerous ancient sites whose mosaics are so extraordinary that they rival those found in Constantinople (renamed Istanbul since 1923.)

Drawing upon this 2,000-year-old glassmaking art, the team at Harry Winston began exploring the idea of combining gemstones with micromosaics for their dials some 10 years ago. Each piece of the Premier Precious Peacock Automatic 36mm is a work of art in miniature, taking two to three full days of work per dial. It is limited to just 30 pieces, and if you are privileged enough to call one your own, do know it is best enjoyed with the aid of a loupe — such is its beauty, richness and intricacy.

GLASHÜTTE ORIGINAL

All the horological cognoscenti are well aware that it was Abraham-Louis Breguet, founder of Breguet watches, who metaphorically “tamed the whirlwind” by inventing the tourbillon. It greatly improved the rate precision of portable mechanical timepieces by containing the balance wheel that oscillates within an open cage, rotating on its own axis to compensate for rate deviance due to gravity. But few know it is German watchmaker Alfred Helwig, a former head of the watchmaking school in the Saxon town of Glashütte, who refined the complication and developed the flying tourbillon in 1920.

It was just two years ago that the maison of Glashütte Original released the Senator Tourbillon Edition Alfred Helwig in tribute to the master watchmaker. This year, all eyes are on the limited edition Senator Chronometer Tourbillon in platinum. Only 25 pieces of this stunning 42mm watch will be produced and, needless to say, it comes complete with its own bag of charms. Its design follows Helwig’s original classic minute tourbillon, and upon closer inspection, reveals a lovely combination of different finishes and fascinating insights. The flying tourbillon immediately captivates with its central position on the skeletonised lower half of the dial and its manual decoration invites contemplation. Admire the delicate engravings, the skeletonised hands, the galvanised blue dial with appliqué indices and, of course, the recognisable Glashütte stripe finish. Everything else you would expect from a top-rate timepiece is in place — including water resistance up to five bars and 70 hours’ power reserve.

OMEGA

Omega has been dominating horological headlines ever since it premiered its new Speedmaster Apollo 11 collection to commemorate the golden anniversary of Apollo 11 at a glittering party at Cape Canaveral (George and Amal Clooney were in attendance) in Florida, the US, mere days before Time To Move 2019. In honour of the first manned moon landing half a century ago (on July 20, 1969), this collection naturally commanded most of the attention during the presentation to the international media.

The 50th Anniversary Limited Edition timepieces mark the debut of Moonshine Gold, a lunar-inspired alloy designed to resemble the light out of the moon shining in a dark blue sky and just slightly paler than traditional 18-carat yellow gold. The Speedmaster in Moonshine Gold — clearly the metal of the moment — is limited to 1,014 pieces to recall the number of pieces released between 1969 to 1973. Our penchant, however, is for the friendlier stainless steel version, which is limited to 6,969 pieces — the number of the historic steps taken by the first human beings to stand on another world. Here, admire the bezel, beveled indices, vintage Omega logo and all of the hands as well as two “1” markings at 11 o’clock, which form the Apollo mission’s number. The subdial at 9 o’clock also features an image of Buzz Aldrin descending the ladder onto the lunar surface.

At the heart of both timepieces beats the Calibre 3861, which is fitted with a silicon hairspring and Omega’s famous Co-Axial escapement, a stop-second function and superior anti-magnetic innovation, ensuring the highest standard of precision, chronometric performance and magnetic resistance. Aesthetes would particularly appreciate the caseback of the stainless steel Speedmaster Apollo 11. An engraving of an astronaut’s footprint is matched with Neil Armstrong’s famous quote, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

If ever you wanted a timepiece that will link you to the spirit of bravery, venturing into the unknown, and mankind’s unquenchable thirst for exploration and conquest, and a piece of jewellery that has you serve as a conduit between the heavens and earth, this would be it!

JAQUET DROZ

The maison of Jaquet Droz, headquartered in the watchmaking cradle of La Chauxde-Fonds, has been delighting enthusiasts of horological métiers d’art and moneyed ornithologists with its bird-inspired series of mechanical fancies. Ever since it premiered its Bird Repeater in 2012, which features a genuine automaton staging five birds against a backdrop of waterfalls, it has become the brand to look for when it comes to timepieces that are both masterpieces of mechanical mastery and artistic tributes to the beauty of nature.

In 2015, Jaquet Droz’s Charming Bird, the first singing bird automatic wristwatch, bagged the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (often dubbed the Oscars of watchmaking) in the Mechanical Exception category while last year’s Parrot Repeater Pocket Watch, created to celebrate the 280th anniversary of the maison, has to be seen (and heard) to be believed.

This year’s offerings are no less exceptional, from the Magic Lotus Automaton, whose mechanisms include an animated pond, carp and lotus flower, to the fluttering wings of the Loving Butterfly Automaton. The pièce de résistance and which continues with the ornithological theme is the Tropical Bird Repeater. Both iterations, in red and white gold, are limited to eight pieces each.

The dial alone demands hours of observation and admiration. The white mother-of-pearl dial and subdial are hand-engraved and hand-painted while at its heart lies a wealth of complications, including a minute repeater and a hand-wound automaton movement that animates a peacock, hummingbird and dragonflies, all set within a Garden of Eden-like composition. And did we mention it is equipped with 50 hours of power reserve, too? Jaquet Droz, we are not worthy.

(Editor’s note: View the Options Instagram page at optionstheedge to listen to the Tropical Bird Repeater chime and see the peacock majestically unfurl its tail feathers.)

BREGUET

Few timepieces in Breguet’s exceptional history are as iconic as the Reine de Naples wristwatch. Created in 1812 for Caroline Murat, the younger sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, who, upon marriage, became the Queen of Naples, it is often hailed as the most iconic and successful of Breguet’s watches for women. The 2019 editions, however, take design, colour and materials to a level seldom seen before in the classic brand. There are nine variants but the one with the blue lacquered ovoid dial is possibly the most striking, taking dial design, colour and choice of materials to a fresh and highly contemporary level.

Designed to recall a night sky peppered with stars, the different hues of the lacquer’s deep-blue, resembling petroleum on water perhaps, with turquoise blue scrolls, are achieved by an artisan placing a touch of clear lacquer onto still-liquid dark material. No fewer than 12 to 18 layers of lacquer are used to achieve this stunning, marbled effect.

It features a self-winding movement while the balance spring and escapement are in silicon. Super-LumiNova is used on the oversized 6 and 12 numerals for nocturnal legibility while classic Breguet touches can be detected in the “B” on the buckle and the recognisable Breguet hands. Those who appreciate the notion of tempering the highest levels of sophistication with a touch of casual chic would appreciate the strap done up in that most utilitarian, yet ubiquitous of materials — denim!

BLANCPAIN

The celebrated maison has been making a name for itself for its divers’ watches of late, so trust it to turn heads this year with the Blancpain Air Command timepiece. It has been a while since the maison highlighted pilots’ watches, so this 500-piece limited edition reissue of the original and very rare Blancpain Air Command watch makes it a piece to covet as well as collect.

Blancpain’s links to military aviation date back to the 1950s. The original Air Command was intended for the US Air Force but was commandeered by the Colombian army’s air force in 1957. This year’s design stays true to the vintage military chronograph timepiece. Indeed, we found it hard to tell the two apart. The main giveaway is the size, which is just 0.5mm larger than the original. The new timepiece features a two-way rotating steel bezel with a ceramic insert and a beautiful sunburst black dial. You may also see the word “Flyback” just above 6 o’clock on the dial, referencing the F388B movement (versus the original flyback Valjoux Calibre 222), which measures a succession of elapsed times and has eliminated many superfluous repetitive operations.

As an aviation timepiece, readability is of utmost importance, so, naturally, the Air Command’s hour markers are Super-LumiNova-ed with larger Arabics. In addition, it is water-resistant up to three bars, offers 50 hours of power reserve and runs at a frequency of 5Hz.