I remember the good ol' days when watches were modern and design was fresh and enthusiastic. Boy, those where some crazy times. We sure have come a long way since then. Today things are better and we've learned our lesson. Don't try to improve upon watch design or create new things. No one wants to buy that. What people really want is old watches. Well, new old watches. Boy, I'll tell you... what a refreshing sight today's new watches are. No distracting innovation, just good old fashioned... "old fashioned."
So it makes me incredibly proud to introduce you to Baume & Mercier's "new" Hampton watch collection. Baume & Mercier really holds a special place in my heart for teasing me with the first watch I could truly not afford. That was a Capeland model back in the late 1990s. What a cool modern watch that was (back in those unfortunate times). Today's Capeland watch is thankfully stuck in a pre-World War II era.
According to Baume & Mercier the Hampton collection is based on a watch from the Baume et Mercier Museum from the 1940s - which is actually a nice looking piece. Using some inconceivable form of Swiss magic, the classic design is reborn mixed with the "discreet luxury" lifestyle of the New York Hamptons. The collection comes in a dizzying array of styles and options. There are gonna be around 20 variants at launch. This includes men's and women's models, as well as different movements options. The best part is Baume & Mercier's special little gift to me - the press release. Finding it as enriching as a morning cup of coffee and as enlightening as a school lesson, I'd like to share some of it with you. For the rest of this article you'll find selected excerpts for your reading pleasure and mental stimulation. The most entrancing part is just how unique these words are as applied to these timepieces.
Since 1830, Baume & Mercier has been designing watches of the highest quality that are endowed with lasting appeal thanks to their classic, timeless esthetic. For 180 years, men’s and ladies’ timepieces have followed one another in succession – sometimes iconic, sometimes inspired, but always dedicated to excellence and always with the same calling: the creations by the Swiss Maison d’Horlogerie have the ability to fix our milestone moments in life to our memory.
For your reference I have included two Hampton watches from the past. You can see the design evolution and devolution. On to the 2011 models. The men's watches come in three forms. There is the three-hand automatic, the chronograph, and the three-hand manually wound version in 18k rose gold. Each is sized slightly differently (probably due to differences in the sizes of the movements). The men's Hampton's automatic contains a Swiss ETA 2895 movement with subsidiary seconds dial and date. I am liking the sword style hands that remind me of all the Baume & Mercier watches I've loved the most in the past. This watch is 32mm wide by 45mm tall and 10.85mm thick.
In addition to the hands I like the applied Arabic hour numerals and the design of the case. Something in me wants the strap to be flush with the case and to taper down toward the clasp. The case is polished and curved. Middle sections near the lugs are satin finished. The caseback has a sapphire exhibition window to the decorated movement. Water resistance for the case is 50 meters.
At the end of Highway 27 on Long Island lies a calm world where elegance is expressed in tiny pointillist strokes, like the neo-impressionist paintings of the first artists who settled in the Hamptons. Dandies in linen suits and young ladies in hats would sharpen their tastes by going from one studio to the next, ending up on the beach with a great vintage brought from Old Europe.
Size is a bit larger for the Hampton chronograph due to the Swiss ETA 2894 automatic movement. Baume & Mercier stripped out the 12 hour chronograph counter to give the dial bi-compax layout. This model is 34.3mm wide by 48.4mm tall. It is also a bit thicker at 12.85mm. Noticing that hint of red in each of the dials as well as the sunray polish on the face? Each of the watches is matched to an alligator strap (black or brown on a folding clasp). Dial colors really range - and the included pictures are just a sample and not the entire collection of 2011 Hampton watches.
While most of the models are in steel, there is one 18k gold model that is based on the Baume & Mercier museum piece that the Hampton collection was originally based on. This decent looking watch contains a manually-wound La Joux-Perret caliber 736-3 movement. Overall this gold watch has a great retro look but I am concerned that the gold hands would blend-in too much with the gold dial. This piece is smaller at 29mm by 45.5mm tall and 10.65mm thick.
Harbingers of Elegance: Like a prelude to the world of seaside living in the Hamptons, the Hampton collection introduced in 1994 and now reinterpreted captures the indescribable beauty of these spaces between land and sea and the discreet, relaxed sophistication of their residents.
For the ladies there are a range of models with quartz movements. These are 27mm wide by 40mm tall and have nice looking two hand dials. While the cases on all of these Hampton watches are rectangular, I like how the dials themselves are a bit more square to enhance legibility. Aside from optional diamonds, one cool feature that the women's models have are steel bracelets. These looks pretty nice and I am curious as to what they would look like on the men's models.
Overall Baume & Mercier's new Hampton collection is handsome and will sell. Baume & Mercier's goal seems to be just that. With emphasis on the Asian market and as Longines as a big competitor, Baume & Mercier is riding the retro-wave until it crashes on the shores of the Hamptons.
A shaped watch is never conventional or “safe.”