The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic watches hands-on
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic is, apparently, the result of a request that fans made to the brand: when will Baume & Mercier manufacture their first in-house built movement? Baume & Mercier has responded with a completely new watch concept, where the in-house built caliber is just one of the outcomes. It is more correct to say that the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic represents a new experience for the consumer.
Henry Ford - there is real progress only, when the advantages of a new technology become available to everyone.
One of Henry Ford's quotes that made history states that "There is real progress only, when the advantages of a new technology become available to everyone". Curiously enough, Baume & Mercier and Ford, through the controlled brand Shelby Cobra, are partners, but that's clearly sheer case. However, what is a real fact is that the Swiss brand represents, and even more so today, the brand that has made a series of innovations at an absolutely competitive price available to a wider audience and this makes it the true 2018 pioneer of the Richemont Group in terms of democratization of innovation, thanks to the widespread of new and (useful) technologies that the Clifton Baumatic collection will launch.
Of the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic project.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic project revolves around four main axes; resistance to magnetic fields, precision, autonomy and reliability. The first principle is intrinsically linked to the the second one, while autonomy is one of the highest values for the end customer and reliability is an indispensable plus side. We all know it already, but Alain Zimmermann also confirmed it during the press conference; having your watch serviced because of a mechanical issue occurred during the warranty period is a nasty surprise.
You know that the watch will be restored to its optimal working conditions, but you still have a bitter taste in your mouth because of the trust that you gave to the brand and the intimate relationship that exists between a watch and its owner. The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic is also the result of a new and more integrated manner of working that the Richemont Group brands and companies have devised; sharing their technologies that will be made available and developed according to the characteristics of each individual brand.
Of magnetic fields and their effect on the precision of a mechanical movement.
We all know the effects that magnetic fields have on the running accuracy of a mechanical watch, unless you are one of those customers, who have forgotten about it and then complain about the lack of precision of their watch with the Customer Service department. What they actually do there is demagnetizing the watch (magnetism builds up on a watch's movement) and returning it to the owner in the correct condition.
We are constantly hit by magnetic fields of a certain intensity (more and more often because of the IOT); I was not aware of it, but it turns out that one of these magnetic fields is created by the amplification effect of the covers of smartphones and tablets. The standard 2002 - ISO 764 (NIHS 90-10) states that the conditions that an anti-magnetic watch needs to fulfill are as follows; it must be able to withstand a 60 Gauss magnetic field and its daily time delay cannot exceed +/- 30 seconds.
This threshold is actually obsolete, because the current one reaches 1,500 Gauss (I think there is need to update this standard) and that is the threshold for which the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic was conceived. The techniques used to make a watch anti-magnetic are widely known; you need to add an internal case made of soft iron that will shield the movement - e.g. the IWC Pilot's Watch or the Rolex Milgauss - alternatively, you can focus on the components of the movement to make it immune to magnetic fields.
For the crafting of the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic the second approach was preferred; this is also the most sensible approach, because it allows you to create a watch with no constraints. How did they manage to reach their goal, while still preventing costs from rising and affecting the final retail price of a Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic? The answer is called "Twinspir" and it is the name that indicates the new spiral spring that was created by joining together two layers of silicon, positioned at an angle of 45 degrees and connected to each other by a layer of silicon dioxide. This system, together with the variable inertia balance wheel, guarantees an accuracy of -4/+6 seconds per day.
Of the operating autonomy of the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic.
Is it 40, 70 or 90 hours? None of the above, the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic has an operating autonomy of 120 hours, that is to say 5 days of power reserve, and it is an excellent result if you consider that a Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic features a case of 40mm in diameter and a thickness of 10,3mm. How is this result even possible? By using the rule that I will define as the "33% rule".
One third of this result is due to the geometry of the barrel and the optimization of the winding spring, another third is due to the geometry of the Powerscape escapement (lower losses due to lowered contact friction) and the last third is due to the Twinspir technology. It is therefore quite clear that this technology was of paramount importance in achieving the objectives of the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic project.
Of the accuracy of a Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic.
Every Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic has an accuracy of -4/+6 seconds a day, but that's not everything; the limited edition version of the collection is a COSC-certified chronometer (this certification includes a series of requirements above the running precision). This result is primarily given by the regulating organ made up of the Twinspir spring and the variable inertia balance wheel.
It is important to highlight the fact that this accuracy is not guaranteed only when the watch is fully wound, but throughout 120 hours and this is where the big difference between a Baumatic and its competitors lies.
Of the reliability of a Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic.
In my opinion, the reliability of a Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic is the most important pillar of the whole project. The brand consistently focused on what is called "Tribology" in literature. Proper lubrication is one of the most debated issues among watch-makers, but it is often something that consumers wouldn't accept; a watch needs servicing at regular intervals, the same way as any other item, where mechanical parts are in contact to each other.
We usually forget it, but a watch is not that different from a car or a motorcycle. Baume & Mercier used new generation lubricants to extend those servicing intervals for up to five years. Although this is something that is not specified, Baume & Mercier guarantee that the failure rate (also called 'Call Rate' in industrial jargon) is much lower on a Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic than on an equivalent watch from the competition.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic is, above everything else, a nice and classic watch and it is also the first automatic Clifton with a caliber that was entirely developed within the group that the brand belongs to. The BM12-1975A caliber has been exclusively built for Baume & Mercier and this places the brand on a different level from the past, as it re-launches its competitiveness within the market access range (the Clifton is already well positioned within the high-range of complicated timepieces).
The dial is extremely clean and, only on the COSC-certified version, there is an addition of four intersecting lines (very personal) to a set, where the base is made of porcelain-like material with applied and rhodium-plated indexes. Moreover, this timepiece sports a further function that can be used on a daily basis; interchangeable straps.
This change affected all the brands belonging to the Group and each of them interpreted it in its own personal way; the alligator leather strap comes with a small quick release lever that allows you to remove the strap and replace it (with another strap or with a bracelet).
Baume & Mercier pricing and final thoughts.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic is the beginning of a new collection that currently has 5 models with retail prices ranging from €2,450 to €3,100 for the steel version with a gold bezel. When I heard about the retail price I was left speechless; the overall value for customers and the customer experience that was exclusively designed for them is the real change that Baume & Mercier have introduced to the market.
This is the area, in which brands should invest more and more resources; improving the experience of buying and owning a watch. In my opinion, it is here that the most important challenge lies and this is where Baume & Mercier are currently at the top of their competitors and must capitalize as best as possible on this advantage. The next step, and also the most delicate one, is being able to effectively communicate to the potential buyer the plus sides of a Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®