Save the manual - Baume et Mercier Clifton 8-Day Power Reserve 185th Limited Edition
Every watch manufacturer has its own leading product, what marketing people call “the flagship model”. On a hypotetical scale a minutes repeater within a fine watchmaking brand's collection of in-house complicated equals a gold manual-winding-complicated-watch within a luxury entry level brand's collection of automatic watches. This comparison can help us to better understand where we should position the Baume et Mercier Clifton 8-Day Power Reserve 185th Limited Edition watch within the Clifton collection.
When I visited the SIHH last January I didn't focus too much on the 2015 new models but I gave priority to this specific timepiece instead, a stylish model or, even better, “a flagship watch”, that was created to celebrate Baume et Mercier's 185th anniversary. In my opinion this watch belongs to the best collection that Baume et Mercier has released in the last 40 years and I spent most of my time at the event browsing around the manufacturer's stand with my camera to take a good look at this timepiece.
The Clifton is definitely a very beautiful watch and its design makes it perfect for every occasion, its level of high finishing can be compared to that of the more exclusive brands and its retail price, despite having gone up a bit in the last few years, remains generally accessible (Richemont is very good at positioning its brands in top positions avoiding brands overlappings.)
No matter what the complication you are looking for is (a three hands watch, a moonphase, a GMT or a chrono complication) you simply need to browse the manufacturer's official website to realize how complete this collection is (on a different note I hope that my friends from Baume et Mercier won't take it badly when I say that the website reminds me of an e-commerce site, that doesn't really suit the brand's image.) The top end of the Clifton collection, aka its three “flagship watches”, includes the 2013 Clifton 10060 featuring a La-Joux Perret movement, the 2014 Clifton 1892 Flying Tourbillon and the 2015 Clifton 8-Day Power Reserve 185th Limited Edition. All these timepieces take inspiration from the 1950 original model, that is on display at the Baume et Mercier's museum, and they are all manual wind timepieces and the living proof that the brand is constantly targetting real connoisseurs and positioning itself towards the top at the very same time.
The improved offer of classic timepieces with manual wind movement is good news for the fans of real watchmaking and the Baume et Mercier Clifton 8-Day Power Reserve 185th Limited Edition is the perfect example of how the brand brought back to life a model from the past using its current best technology. The caliber it adopts is the 59210 manufactured by IWC with a 8-day power reserve, a 4Hz frequency and a Breguet spring. If you compare this watch with a manual wind IWC Portofino 8-day Power Reserve you will notice that the dial is exactly the same with a seconds dial at 6 and the power reserve indicator at 9 o'clock.
The curved dial of the Baume et Mercier Clifton 8-Day Power Reserve 185th Limited Edition takes inpiration from the original model (you will probably notice the curving of the annual calendar's window) as does the thin and built-in winding crown: two typical characteristics of watches from the 50s. The very thin crown makes it a bit complicated to wind the movement but it also makes the watch extremely comfortable to wear, also thanks to its 59210 caliber, that is wide (the case is 45mm wide) but thin (the Portofino is 12mm thick) and it sports a "Côtes de Genève" pattern and the Phi logo. It seems like the case is the very same one of the other Clifton watches but it is actually way more elaborated: case and lugs seem to be separated in two parts and the sapphire glass is a “form box” one. The difference between a standard automatic Clifton and this one is evident, the outcome outstanding.
The Baume et Mercier Clifton 8-Day Power Reserve 185th Limited Edition is the quintessence of the “modern vintage” style because it puts together two concepts, that seem completely antithetical but are actually quite close to each other: the desire for an elegant and vintage watch like the one our grandfathers used to wear in the 50s and the need to get something more than a 39mm case and a three-hands timepiece, the passion for complications, a big case and a state-of-the-art mechanical movement. The answer to all these needs is the Baume et Mercier' Clifton 8-Day Power Reserve 185th Limited Edition, a timepiece retailing at around 15,000CHF. The only issue with this watch is that because the manufacturer wants to avoid overlappings with other brands, it will probably not create a steel version of this timepiece.
(Photo credit: Google; Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter