Five letters that shook the Swiss luxury empire. The Covid swept away certainties, sowed doubt and reaped chaos. The Swiss Made watch industry was worth more than 20 billion euros a year ago. What is left of it today? Maybe a small half. Our passionate overview of the most beautiful new products.
By Olivier Müller
The only thing certain is that nothing is. Uncertainty prevails, but this is not the first crisis for watchmakers: 50 years ago, quartz was born. He too, in his time, has ravaged the venerable mechanical watches, relegating gold and platinum to the rank of vulgar refuge values. The result is well known: in 1990, some valiant manufacturers came back to offer to groggy collectors more expensive pieces than quartz watches, less precise, rare and totally useless. Why? For the beauty of the gesture. For the love of good workmanship, of tradition. So that the art of watchmaking lives on. Good news: these few houses, faced with this new threat, are back.
The most stellar: De Bethune “DB28 Starry Sky”. De Bethune is a small, 100% independent manufacturer, founded in 2002, with about 30 employees and 27 calibers developed in-house. The brand’s most popular piece is the DB28, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The starry dial of the piece will represent very exactly, at the request of the customer, the sky as it was at the day and place of his choice. Each piece will be unique. Technically, this jewel of modernity features a double self-regulating barrel – invented in 2004 -, a titanium balance wheel – 2006 -, and a silicon balance spring, all for an impressive power reserve of 6 days.
The most beautiful revival: Rolex “Submariner”. The most sober, the most famous, the icon par excellence: the Rolex Submariner, “Sub” for friends, released in 1953, evolves in 2020. The changes are subtle but particularly welcome: a diameter that has increased by 1 mm – 41 mm -, two new calibers with or without date, refined lugs, a reworked bracelet with a larger central link, and a power reserve that has been increased to 70 hours, allowing you to put your watch down on Friday evening and find it perfectly on time on Monday morning. The beautiful Submariner evolves gently but with finesse, tact, respect and consistency. The Great Rolex.
The most titled: Bulgari “Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph”. And six: Bulgari has just set its sixth world record for thinness, that of the thinnest automatic tourbillon chronograph in the world, at only 3.5 mm thick for the movement. The Octo Finissimo is sculptural, both fine and powerful, technical and discreet. Limited to 50 pieces, the titanium piece can be worn with a full suit or with a shirt arm. An ode to Swiss watchmaking craftsmanship as well as to the audacity of Italian design.
The most cast: Raketa “Leopard 24”. It is a secret but restless world: in Europe there are crazy collectors of Russian watches, especially from the last authentic Soviet factory, located in Saint Petersburg, Raketa. The latter has just unveiled a watch whose case includes real fragments of the hull of the 1988 Soviet nuclear submarine, the Leopard K-328. The hands are the exact shape of those used on the on-board instruments of the time and the identification of the Leopard is engraved on the bezel. A limited series Made in Russia, extravagant, wildly endearing, historical, unique and accessible.
The most chic and shocking: H. Moser & Cie “Pioneer Centre Second Swiss Mad Red. To have a three-hand watch, innovative, 100% manufacture, that nobody else has and that has personality has become a challenge. Fortunately, H. Moser & Cie is there. It has just unveiled a new version of its Pioneer, its most affordable model, with a caliber that is 100% designed, developed, manufactured and assembled in-house – including the balance spring. The piece has a “Swiss Mad” dial, an allusion to the famous “Swiss Made” that makes Swiss watchmaking famous. Traditional but not consensual, the piece has a strong character, adorned with the famous “smoked dial” dear to Moser and which perfectly suits a cheeky and funky red. An offbeat pleasure for collectors off the beaten track.