The Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Bronze watches hands-on
In the last two years, the brand has focused its efforts primarily on the launch and development of the Clifton Baumatic collection. Baume & Mercier has this year turned the spotlights on the standard Clifton collection once again, and the Clifton Club, a sporty take on the Clifton that broke cover in 2017, at that year's SIHH. In 2019, the brand extends the Clifton Club offering by adding a variant crafted in bronze, a trend that is quite common in the industry and seemed to be a gamble, when the first bronze watches appeared a few years ago. Baume & Mercier offers not one but four bronze watches, thus reinforcing the mission statement of the Clifton Club, whereas the Baumatic keeps representing the pillar of the brand aimed at tech-savvy enthusiasts, other than being a best-in-class in its segment, in terms of performances.
If we exclude incredible partnerships like the ones signed with Shelby Cobra and, more recently, Indian Motorcycles, the latter turning towards the end of its life cycle, the Clifton Club collection represents the flagship sporty take on the Clifton. Nevertheless, the freshly released bronze product offering might look like a lost opportunity or the last call, in the benchmark. Which is Baume & Mercier's playground given that most brands already offer a wristwatch with a bronze case since a long time, included brands belonging to the same industrial group like IWC, Panerai or Montblanc for example?
Price point apart, Baume & Mercier has a far different brand positioning, the distinctive element comes mostly from the Clifton Club's design architecture, where the replacement of steel with bronze adds a fresh new touch. Considering the brand's pedigree, Baume & Mercier could have easily drawn inspiration from its archives. Designers moved forward instead while taking some dust off the beloved Riviera, in my opinion.
The dial showcases details that made the Riviera collection so successful in the nineties, while colors and combinations are a nod to the Riviera XXL, the very last iteration before the brand eventually discontinued the whole collection: the brand logo is oversized, and it is the first thing you notice, up-close.
It is applied at twelve and replaces an otherwise trivial baton or triangle-shaped one. I found out, by the way, the Riviera is quite sought-after, and its quotations on the second-hand market are steadily growing.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Bronze features a somewhat multi-tier dial: the outermost is the minute ring and includes baton-shaped indices. The second "layer" is a single-tone ring that surrounds the central part where the Baume & Mercier wording is printed.
Baume & Mercier offers the following versions of the Clifton Club Bronze: two come with full bronze case and bezel, mated to an olive-green or black dial respectively, whereas the other two ones add a black bezel insert to complement a blue or brown dial. The "green-gold" version works pretty well, and I reckon that's the reason why it is currently the most popular combo on the market.
My choice goes, no doubt, to the bronze and blue version; designers at Baume & Mercier opted for a matte blue Pantone that combines with black bezel and bronze crafted case almost seamlessly. Additionally, when you're choosing your new Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Bronze, let please your imagination work: the natural oxidation process will tend to transform the case into something different and more opaque, a feat you need to consider when buying any bronze watch. This effect is undoubtedly stronger where case and bezel are full bronze.
Among the success factors of any Clifton Club, as I highlighted already when I reviewed the original collection back in 2017, during that year's SIHH, I'd mention its reduced case thickness: at 10.3mm, it guarantees excellent comfort and, if we take into account it's a sport watch, that's a great achievement. The case is reasonably sized, and at 42mm in width, it's absolutely in line with current market trend.
Baume & Mercier wins hands down the competition for best-crafted NATO strap ever, and most comfortable summer strap either. Not only is it super soft, but it's also carefully designed, has a nicely personalized pin buckle and is in rubber. If you want to replace it, you can easily opt for any other pin-buckle or folding clasp strap, with the former being my favorite option. Prices? Each of them retails for € 2.600, which makes it by far the most attractive bronze-watch offering out there.
(Photo credit: Simona Bertogliatti for Horbiter®)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®