Specialist Picks • 14 Mar 2018

The Best Of The Independents

by Victor Toth


It wasn’t only with new watches that the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH, was different in 2018. This year over a dozen independents joined the luxury watch fair that once was almost entirely exclusive to the brands of Richemont, the likes of Cartier, Panerai and IWC. To celebrate some of our favorite independents joining SIHH – and several leaving rival fair Baselworld for good – we have created a round-up of some of our top picks of “indie” novelties.

MB&F returned with another incredible, albeit familiar-looking, wristwatch dubbed the MoonMachine 2, the second collaboration with the one and only Stepan Sarpaneva. The new MoonMachine 2, as any serious MB&F collector and fan of the brand will be able to tell at a glance, is based on the 2016 Horological Machine 8 “CanAm.” Its case is inspired by the Canadian-American Challenge Cup car racing series that existed between 1966 and 1987: the titanium bars over the case resemble roll bars, while the flat top of the case is much like an engine cover, especially as it does in fact reveal the movement safeguarded by a complex pane of sapphire crystal.

 

 

What’s new in the MoonMachine 2 is that it adds the trademark Sarpaneva moonphase with a moon “face” and transfers it into the dashboard-style time display panel that is facing towards the wearer – a feature found in retro driver’s watches. You read the hours to the left, minutes to the right, while the phase of the moon is in dead center – and all these indications are delivered to you by a prism crystal that projects the rotating discs, which are actually in the same plane as the movement, upwards into the front of the case.

 

 

De Bethune unveiled a new take on its signature watch with the DB28 Steel Wheels. A more open look is the result of open-working the front of the DB2115V4 hand-wound movement that runs at a contemporary 4 Hertz and yet provides an impressive six days of power reserve. Just like any true De Bethune, the DB28 has countless amazing details that only become apparent upon closer inspection, such as the tiny spherical hour markers that one would almost expect to roll off the edge of the dial, the fantastic, three-dimensional phase of the moon indication at 6 o’clock, the transparent sapphire hour hand, or the beautifully finished and shock protected bridge that holds the balance wheel. A true De Bethune through and through, especially with that beautifully finished, 42.6mm by 9.6mm case in grade 5 titanium case, complete with spring-loaded lugs.

 

 

At SIHH 2018, Urwerk has launched the UR-210 Royal Hawk in “Black Platinum”, a watch as menacing as it is heavy. The UR-210, as anyone who has had the privilege of wearing it will attest, is a weapons-grade watch that comes in a 53.6mm by 43.8mm case with a bulbous, shield-shaped sapphire crystal under which the brand’s trademark satellite time display resides in all its glory. For 2018, Urwerk has tuned up the UR-210 with a beastly black and red colour scheme, accompanied by the immense weight of the black coated platinum case. This year at SIHH, Urwerk has also teased its AMC, which is going to be an atomic time controlled movement similar to their EMC caliber that we saw the brand debut a number of years ago. Inspired by Breguet’s Sympathique clock and still under development, this truly was more of a tease than anything else.

 

 

Kari Voutilainen, the always quiet, but immensely talented Finnish master watchmaker was also to be found in the Carré des Horlogers, where all independent small independent exhibitors were clustered at SIHH 2018. The fantastic-looking – though, admittedly, not so amazingly named – the retrograde date 217QRS made its debut with a deep blue dial, with painstakingly executed guilloche patterns that varied between the center of the dial, the sub-dial at six o’clock, and the chapter ring for the hour markers.  A retrograde date indication in the center lends extra functionality and complexity to the 217QRS, while the typical-Voutilainen, multi-piece hour- and minute hands hint at an even more subdued level of refinement. Available in platinum or 18k rose or white gold, this piece measures a highly traditional and equally comfortable 39mm by 11.5mm, while a weekend-spanning 65-hour power reserve further improve real life usability.

 

 

Last, but most definitely not least, SIHH 2018 saw the debut of F.P. Journe’s Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante, asingle-button, split-second chronograph. First of all, don’t let the double pushers fool you – this is a monopusher chronograph that has just one pusher tackle the task of starting, stopping and resetting the chronograph, while the other pusher handles the split-second. Powered by a brand new movement derived from that in the one-off F.P. Journe Only Watch This 44mm wide and 12mm high watch will come in either platinum, 18k red gold or grade 5 titanium and we can say, this highly impressive movement with its traditional dial layout will look vastly different when dressed in heavy and precious platinum or in featherweight and modern titanium.

These powerful-looking and high-performance novelties from some of the best independent brands prove that SIHH is no longer just about the muscle flexing of the some of the most powerful in the industry; far from it, the agile and talented little brands continue to prove that they too have the power to surprise and amaze.


Victor Toth

Victor Toth is a Prague-based, professional photographer-turned-watch enthusiast and freelance journalist, whose journey into the complex world of fine watchmaking had begun a number of years ago. Over this time it has become his passion to share his understanding of the finer details of beautiful timepieces, all in an effort to encourage a more thorough appreciation of this wonderful and complex universe of fine mechanics.


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