The Baume & Mercier Clifton Club watches hands-on
Once upon a time there was the Baume et Mercier Riviera; it was the sporty declension of one of the most classic brands of Swiss watch-making, it was characterized by an eye-catching, thick, and dodecagonal bezel, a rubber strap and a deploying buckle with a double safety button. Towards the end of its career, the Riviera turned into an XXL timepiece and you could easily recognize it among other watches because it sported a hour hand with a Greek “phi” symbol (the brand’s logo) inserted in the middle of the hours hand; a finishing touch that slightly worsened the watch’s readability but, at the same time, a very smart way to make it visible on the version with a Roman numbers dial.
If you have skipped every step of Baume et Mercier’s history between 2000 and 2017, you should know that there is no trace left of that particular collection and the same thing can be said for those entirely sporty Baume et Mercier timepieces. The brand decided to focus on developing new collections that tend to be more on the classic side, raising the amount of complications and finding in the Clifton collection everything that marketing guru categorize as “hero”, that is to say the master collection itself.
Baume et Mercier, thanks to its Clifton Club, makes its comes back to the world of 2017 sports watch-making. This watch is not a professional diver’s timepiece or something extremely technical that would actually clash with the brand’s mission, more easily said, it is a smart proposal that summarizes different sports concepts and that is geared towards all those people who have always wanted to own a Clifton, those who love its size and shape (very well thought out and very well proportioned) and those who want to use their watch on every single occasion, a jogging session in the park on a Sunday or on a ski slope included.
This is the Baume et Mercier watch that many of us were waiting for, or maybe a watch that was just missing and that, on some levels, brings in a small percentage of sports into a contest pretty much dominated by classicism. The style of a Clifton is therefore the perfect vehicle for the Club, the same way it is for a 7-day-power-reserve-timepiece or a perpetual calendar.
The Baume et Mercier Clifton Club will hit the market in 5 different versions; all of them are coloured. The original Clifton’s case is at the base of every one of the 5 versions and its thickness moved from the 11,54mm of the automatic men’s version to the 10.3mm of the Clifton Club. The original shape of the case has been maintained and so has the polished motif that goes from one lug to the other and that represents this timepiece’s trademark, all the rest, however, has changed.
The Baume et Mercier Clifton Club sports a case-middle that tapers dramatically towards the outside and ends with two tips that form the protection shoulders of the crown with the brand’s logo; the very same logo has been applied and oversized at 12 o’clock. When I had this timepiece in my hands at the end of the press release, the oversized logo reminded me, at first sight, of the mythical Riviera watch; the case is stainless-steel made and is coated with ADLC (Amorphous Diamond Like Carbon), a more sophisticated choice than the PVD-treatment.
Moving to the dial; that’s where the customization effort of the designers focused on. Riveted indices on the dial that have been coated with SuperLuminova C1 that emits a deep green luminosity, inner small parts on a separate and raised ring with slots; the same slots that can be found on the 120-click unidirectional bezel. Not a brand new concept in the world of watch-making but, at the same time, not too widespread as it should be if you consider the great feeling of quality and precision (2 clicks per second) that you can experience when you rotate the bezel.
When it comes to straps, Baume et Mercier have crafted different types of bracelets for the Clifton Club; these range from a triple-meshed bracelet made of stainless-steel (a solution I am not too keen on as it tends to put the style of this timepiece to the same level as other stainless-steel three-hand-watches) to two more original solutions. The first solution is a rubber strap with a wide buckle signed with the brand’s logo, while the second solution is a calf-leather strap with a technical coating on one side and an orange rubber insert on the other side that references the same orange rim present on the inner part of the minute ring.
Among all the possible combinations, the white dial version of the Baume et Mercier Clifton Club is the better crafted one, while the version with the matted case coated with ADLC is definitely the more resistant. Baume et Mercier have also unveiled an additional version of their straps; a NATO strap made of rubber that presents a simple but noticeable difference if compared to all the other NATO straps crafted by the brand’s competitor (the buckle steel has been customized like on the other Clifton watches).
The Baume et Mercier Clifton Club timepieces retail at a starting price of about 1,700 euro (below the 2000-euro-psychological-threshold) and they make the Swiss brand once again one of the protagonists in the niche of accessible luxury sports watch-making. The timepieces are well crafted and original too; a goal that is not easy to reach when you are asked to come up with a sports three-hand-watch that needs to be simple too, and that will have to fight against a good dozen of valid competitors.
Among the pros of the Clifton Club watches are the good making, the ADLC and the micrometric bezel at 120 clicks; two features that are usually reserved to higher level timepieces and a reference collection that can boast a tourbillon, a perpetual calendar and a timepiece with 7 days of power reserve. Three complications that have dramatically brought up the value of the brand in the last ten years and that positively reflect on the image of the new sports watch also.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)