Share on:

22 exceptional luxury watches of 2018 (Part III/III)

Part III of III of the 22 most exceptional watches for 2018, featuring timepieces from the likes of Richard Mille, Vacheron Constantin, and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Full speed ahead

ROGER DUBUIS

Excalibur Spider Pirelli Single Flying Tourbillon, Excalibur Aventador S Blue

  • Excalibur Spider Pirelli Single Flying Tourbillon

Roger Dubuis shares many common points with motor sports, said Dorothee Henrio, international marketing director of the brand, at SIHH 2018. “It’s a very daring world, there’s a lot of investment in research and development, and they’re passionate about mechanics.” This year, the brand reinforces its partnerships with Lamborghini Squadra Corse – the marque’s motor-sport division – and tyre specialist Pirelli.

The Excalibur Aventador S, Roger Dubuis’ collaborative model with Lamborghini, now comes in more colours and finishes, including sporty hues like blue or yellow. The 45mm watch is powered by the Lamborghini-exclusive Calibre RD103SQ, which features Roger Dubuis’ double inclined balance wheels, as well as X-shaped strut bars and bridges – elements inspired by an Aventador S engine.

Roger Dubuis is also revving up its collaborative series with Pirelli: The Excalibur Spider Pirelli Single Flying Tourbillon was launched in May at the Run to Monaco, a luxury driving experience culminating in a weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix. Like its predecessors, the watch comes with straps with rubber inlays made from certified Pirelli race-winning tyres, but what sets the black DLC-coated titanium timepiece apart is a quick-release system that lets owners switch straps easily. The 28-piece boutique-exclusive edition comes with seven additional straps in Pirelli colours.

(RELATED: What’s inside this gorgeous Roger Dubuis Excalibur?)

 

Perfectly formed

PARMIGIANI

Kalpa Chronor

  • Kalpa Chronor

Watch snobs can have many bugbears – some are irked by the presence of a date window, while some find it intolerable when a minute hand is not long enough to reach the minute track. But one of the biggest negatives is when a movement does not exactly fit its case. Such purists will be hard-pressed to find fault with Parmigiani’s trio of additions to its tonneau-shaped Kalpa family, created to mark the 20th anniversary of the Calibre PF 110 – a tonneau-shaped manually wound movement created by brand founder Michel Parmigiani.

The collection’s most brilliant model – literally speaking – is the Kalpa Chronor, which features a rose gold case with a solid-gold movement to match. Perfectly shaped to fit its case, the Kalpa Chronor’s highly decorated Calibre PF 365 is the world’s first automatic, integrated chronograph movement crafted almost wholly from solid gold (its moving parts are still crafted from steel, because gold would be too soft).

The watch is also no slouch from the front, with a sporty, refined look, courtesy of details such as a bi-level black dial with guilloche accents, and teardrop-shaped lugs.

(RELATED: 22 exceptional luxury watches of 2018 (Part II/III)

Flat out awesome

PIAGET

Altiplano Ultimate Concept

  • Altiplano Ultimate Concept

The ultra-thin race has been a close one fought among various brands over the years, but there is no doubt that Piaget dominated the slender-timepiece space this year. A stunning 2mm in thickness (that’s thinner than a $1 coin), the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is the world’s thinnest watch, with proportions that make its closest competition, the 3.6 mm-thick Master Ultra-Thin Squelette by Jaeger-LeCoultre, seem practically obese. The skinniness of Piaget’s creation was made possible by shaving any excess from every single component, resulting in a two-layer construction and five new patented innovations.

As fans wait for the features in the Ultimate Concept to trickle down into Piaget’s production timepieces, the brand continues to update its ultra-thin retail catalogue: The Altiplano Ultimate 910P is the automatic version of the hand-wound 900P. Housed in a 4.3mm-thick case of white or pink gold, the movement of the 910P is largely based on that of its predecessor – whereby the main-plate doubles as the caseback, and so on – with the addition of a peripheral oscillating weight made from solid gold.

 

Great impact

RICHARD MILLE

RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough

  • RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough

In 2012, Richard Mille created its first watch for Argentinian polo pro Pablo Mac Donough. The RM 053 Tourbillon Polo – Pablo Mac Donough was housed in a titanium carbide, armour-like case, with the time display visible only through two angled windows. It could stand up to the impact of a flying ball or swinging mallet. The second time round, brand founder Richard Mille upped the ante, challenging his team to create a watch with a visible movement, but still tough enough to withstand great impact.

Dressed up with baby-blue accents, the new RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough achieves this aim, thanks to features found in its movement and watch glass. Inspired by architecture, the tourbillon movement is held in place with a shock-absorbing cable suspension system, much like in an actual suspension bridge. Protecting without concealing the movement is an automotive-inspired laminated glass – a hardy “sandwich” comprising two sapphire glass sheets separated by a thin polyvinyl film. In pendulum impact testing, it could withstand the thrust of a metal spike attached to a 4.5kg weight. Mission accomplished.

(RELATED: Why Richard Mille wants Rafael Nadal to break their high-end watches)

 

Into high gear

TAG HEUER

Carrera ‘Tete de Vipere’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer

  • Carrera ‘Tete de Vipere’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer

Tag Heuer celebrates the 55th anniversary of the Carrera this year with a new version of its Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer, a cool-looking sporty model that stands out with two major new features: a 45mm midnight-blue ceramic case and bezel, as well as an uncommon chronometer certification.

The accuracy and reliability of the Carrera “Tete de Vipere” Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer – which is powered by Tag Heuer’s Heuer-02T automatic tourbillon chronograph movement – is certified by the Besancon Observatory in France.

The organisation’s certification mark is the Tete de Vipere, or viper’s head. Since it was relaunched in 2006, this chronometer certificate has been awarded to just 500 watches.

To obtain it, a fully assembled watch has to pass 16 days of testing, in five positions and three temperatures.

This unusual certificate adds further value to a watch that is already known for being one of the most affordable tourbillon timepieces on the market – this edition will retail for 19,900 Swiss francs (S$27,000).

 

Freak show

ULYSSE NARDIN

Freak Vision

  • Freak Vision

When we sat down with recently minted Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrick Pruniaux during SIHH, he shared that one of his key tasks was to make the brand’s “disruptive” technologies more accessible to a bigger audience. That was one of the reasons driving the creation of the Freak Vision – the brand’s latest version of its signature hand-less and crown-less watch model, Freak.

The Freak Vision incorporates a few of the innovations that were unveiled in the Ulysse Nardin Inno Vision 2 concept watch last year. These include an ultra-light silicon balance wheel with nickel mass elements and stabilising silicon micro-blades, as well as the efficient Grinder automatic-winding system. Powering the first automatic Freak watch in production, Grinder comprises a rotor linked to a frame with four arms – a design that helps it to convert even the smallest wrist movements into energy. While the Freak Vision is housed in a platinum case and costs 95,000 Swiss francs (S$130,000), Ulysse Nardin also recently released the titanium-cased, hand-wound Freak Out, retailing for 48,000 Swiss francs. Yup, it’s a good time to freak out.

(RELATED: Julian Ong collects luxury watches that document milestones in horology)

 

New era

VACHERON CONSTANTIN

Fiftysix Day-Date

  • Fiftysix Day-Date

The world’s oldest continuously operating watch company makes a clear play for the younger set this year, introducing its most affordable timepiece yet.

The new Fiftysix “retro-contemporary” collection has a starting price of $16,900 (for the steel time-and-date model), around half the price of some of its previous “entry-level” pieces.

A “modern interpretation” of the reference 7063 model introduced in 1956 (hence the collection’s name), the Fiftysix series comprises three models – automatic with date; day-date; and complete calendar – in pink gold or steel. What sets the pieces apart are aesthetic details such as its alternating Arabic numerals and indexes, and a sector-style dial with its two-tone finish. Aside from this new collection, Vacheron Constantin also introduced novelties that will please its long-time collectors. New Traditionnelle pieces – a time-only watch with a tourbillon, and a complete calendar – made their debut in a pink gold or platinum case; while 18th-century hot air balloon flights inspired a charming five-piece collection of engraved enamel watches.

(RELATED: Vacheron Constantin’s latest collection pays homage to hot-air balloons)

 

Always a delight

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS

Midnight Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs

  • Midnight Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs

We have never seen a boring-looking watch by Van Cleef & Arpels, and this applies, whether it’s one of the brand’s precious Poetic Astronomy pieces or a useful dual-time watch. Having released its miniature-solar-system-on-a-watch, the Midnight Planetarium, in 2014, Van Cleef & Arpels now adapts it for a smaller, 38mm model. The Lady Arpels Planetarium is smaller than its 44mm predecessor and, consequently, features three “planets” – made of different gemstones – instead of six, but makes up for it with a moon that revolves around the turquoise earth. Each celestial body moves at its actual speed.

While it’s not as far out, the Midnight Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs (“time here and time elsewhere”) is a fairly unusual dual-time watch. It simultaneously tells the time in two time zones, via a retrograde minute scale and two jumping-hour windows. First launched in a different case in 2014, the dual-time watch is now housed in a pink gold Midnight case and has a black dial instead of a white one. A stamped sun motif adds texture to the black dial, which in turn makes a bold contrast with the pink-gold case and hour-markers.

(RELATED: 22 exceptional luxury watches of 2018 (Part I/III))