The social aspects of SIHH are just as important to us as the Novelties, and this year proved memorable as members of The Hour Club family were drawn to Geneva in celebration of Vacheron Constantin’s 260th anniversary.
Digital withdrawal. Unfortunately, I feel at a bit of a disadvantage in sharing the experience with my fellow THL’ers this year. As refugees in our daughter’s house while our own home undergoes renovations, I lack access to my computer and library. Heck, I don’t even have a telephone! On the plus side, the fears over using my daughter’s iMac have been dispelled; they are very intuitive, unlike MS anything. Although I subscribe to the Universal Filtering Effect, where the truly important will find a way to make itself known, I’ll admit to a dawning realization that smart phones, text messaging, and cloud computing may have a place in our future.
Better late than never. The host dinner this year was at a stunning private mansion on, and Alex was quite pleased about this, rue Abraham Constantin. The name pays homage to a renowned Genevois enamel artist and the brother of Francois Constantin. It was an adventure just to attend, as there were delays in transportation caused in large part by the miserable rainy weather. When our chariot failed to appear at the appointed time, we decided to make the short walk to the Maison under the assumption the dinner would be at its usual location. Alas, the place was in darkness and we were quite damp! Back to the hotel, a quick dabbing with a towel, and we were fresh as daisies when the front desk rang up to say our driver had arrived nearly an hour late.
But it’s still early at home. I know that many others were taking photos and notes of the dinner menu, so I will not review that aspect except to reinforce that we were privileged to experience a perfect evening, capped off with VC’s private stock of cigars and a robust sampling of scotch. I’ll confess that we were some of the last to get pushed out the door in the wee hours, only because for once jet-lag was working in our favor.
Scoop or scooped? I was pleased to reunite with Paul Boutros; TimeZone moderator, well-known American watch aficionado according to WatchTime, very nice family man according to Mrs. TT and, most recently, partner with Aurel Bacs as an independent watch consultant to Phililips auction house. This latter fact led me to corner Paul in a quiet spot and ask for the inside track on the Graves Supercomplication, which Mr. Bacs purchased on behalf of an anonymous bidder for a record sum of more than $23M. Of course he demurred, but then seemed genuinely interested when I shared a tidbit from our tour of the Patek Philippe Museum over the weekend. The guide made reference to the Supercomplication and categorically stated that PP did not have it. “Unfortunately it is in a private collection”, said the docent. “I think you have a scoop”, said Paul.
Lucky Paul. Paul also had the (mis)fortune of being seated next to me at dinner, although it was a fitting arrangement as we were both wearing Overseas watches. Actually, I had one on each wrist but his told a better story. Seems he just pipped me by an hour to become the owner of one of three left-hand OS chronometers made by VC for Richemont CEO Johann Rupert. We laughed rather uproariously as Paul described sleeping with his cell phone so as to not miss a return call from the UK dealer who was selling the piece. I was in communication with them at the same time but dithered too long and missed out. Honestly though, it couldn’t have landed in better hands. Interesting back-story too, as you may know Rupert didn’t actually like the watch and returned his to VC. It seems Paul’s example was subsequently gifted to an employee as a bonus, who felt free to sell once he left the company.
I heard it was a marvelous visit. Speaking of forum moderators, Mrs TT and I ventured out to the airport at the beginning of the week to greet Bill Lind from Purists. We had arranged to drive up to Le Sentier with Bill to visit his friend and watch icon, Daniel Roth. Unfortunately, we were feeling quite ill with the flu and did not want responsibility for spreading this malaise to innocent parties so our purpose was only to pass on regrets. This was our second failed attempt to visit Roth; a year earlier we’d planned a detour to his most exclusive atelier of Jean Daniel Nicholas while hiking the Jura Trail but weather and distance conspired against us on that occasion.
Best of the rest. Talk of Mr. Roth reminds me of the “off-broadway” show that accompanies SIHH, when other brands take advantage of Richemont’s halo to present their offerings in Geneva. We attended once such showing at Watch Art Gallery and were very impressed. One piece offered under the aegis of Maitres du Temps was a collaboration between Daniel Roth and Peter Speake-Marin called the Chapter Two; a triple-calendar with innovative roller system to display the day and month. By far my favorite was the Chapter Three Reveal, a collaboration between Kari Voutilainen and Andreas Strehler. As the name suggests, the surprise comes when two hidden panels in the dial are opened at the push of a button to reveal a 2nd timezone and day/night indication. And it looks like a Kari creation.
Thanks Walter. Many thanks to Maitres du Temps Sales Director Walter Ribaga for his kindness and patience in sharing some wonderful timepieces with us at WAG (while several other brands were packed up and eager to leave two hours before closing). Just to show he is a real watch guy, our talk about chronometry led Walter to call to the back for someone to bring out a certain watch. A young woman carried out a piece and laid it in my hand. She begins to recite its cosmetic features but I’m not hearing any of it because my attention was rapturously focused on the movement visible through its sapphire front and back. The piece was the Royal Marine Chronometer by the newish brand James C. Pellaton, that featured a superb recreation of the famous Pellaton tourbillon caliber which dominated Observatory trials of the early 20th century (used by V&C too).
A talented chap. To close out my WAG impressions, I must mention a very talented young watchmaker named Frederic Jouvenot, who came to the trade from the field of micro-engineering. With his attention to finishing, it was no surprise to discover he trained with Minerva where he developed their Mysterieuses Tourbillon. His collection is based upon a novel hours indication consisting of twelve rotating cones which change colors as time progresses through day into night. It actually works and is very instinctive. Most impressively, he went from design to production in only three years, with a new movement and not someone else’s ebauche. He also has a profitable sideline in restoring vintage and rare timepieces.
Nina, you owe us that joke. Back on the subject of forum moderators, our own Alex Ghotbi was accompanied at dinner and the Manufacture tour by the lovely and gracious Nina. Upon learning we were from Canada, she announced that she had a “bear joke” to share. Unfortunately, and on subsequent occasions over the following days, she could never quite remember how it went. Alas, those familiar with it were reluctant to repeat such a groaner.
Still a success. I was determined to get a wrist shot of the new split-second Harmony but that was proving difficult. One was locked in the display cabinet and the other was in Charlie Torres’ pocket so we were unable to lay our hands on it during the official Hour Club presentation. Not willing to give up, I set forth with a mission. Mr. Torres was flying to-and-fro but I managed to intercede long enough to say hello and compliment the Novelties. Just as I thought it might be safe to ask for a look in his pants, he was called away. Drat! We returned to the Salon on Thursday and found a much less crowded, more relaxed atmosphere. I resorted to begging Alex, who kindly led me to Christian Selmoni. Now I was in for a ride, attempting to stay on the heels of this long-legged gentleman as he strode from one end of the booth to the other in search of the elusive Harmony Ultra-Thin Grande Complication Chronograph. At last the appropriate tray was located and, as a bonus, so was the equally amazing Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph. Truth be told, my photos were taken with the watches laid over the wrist so as not to violate their virgin straps.
Disaster averted. Back to lovely ladies, I really must thank Veronique for rescuing the camera I abandoned at the Manufacture prior to heading to Palexpo for the presentation of this year’s Novelties. I was frantically searching pockets and cases as we walked into the room, only to find it waiting for me on the table. I took Veronique’s good-natured scolding with pleasure.
On the VC front. I feel unencumbered to state that a new Overseas Generation III is ready for launch, with an in-house automatic movement. Next year’s 20th anniversary of the Overseas would make sense for the reveal. An amazing new Historiques piece is also ready, perhaps for Watches & Wonders this fall? Going out on the limb a bit further, 2017 will be the 40th anniversary of the 222 as well as 110 years of the Chronometre Royal. Hoping for big things then!
Well, I’m out of gossip…for now.