October 22, 2015
by Ariel Adams
At Watches & Wonders 2015, Baume & Mercier‘s major introduction (for men) was a limited edition pocket watch… in 18k red gold (of course). I knew about this in advance of the show, and I asked myself, “why?” Why would a company interested in offering entry-level to mid-range luxury watches suddenly release a pocket watch, limited to 30 pieces, with a massive $50,000 price tag? I have to say that after checking out the Clifton 1830 Pocket Watch Five-Minute Repeater, I sort of figured out why, but that still doesn’t explain the ongoing fetish watch brands seem to have with pocket watches these days. Nevertheless, with all that said, the Baume & Mercier Clifton 1830 Pocket Watch Repeater is a rather charming item.
Baume & Mercier’s lead designer Alexandre Peraldi was nice enough to explain to us the aesthetic concept behind the Clifton pocket watch, and the idea is wonderfully ironic. You know how many wrist watches are inspired by pocket watches, and how even today, there are a lot of elements of wrist watches that can be attributed to traditional pocket watch design. Well, here is a pocket watch inspired by a wrist watch. The case and loop for the leather lanyard on the Clifton 1830 pocket watch is directly inspired by the Baume & Mercier Clifton watch collection (hands-on here). I’ve actually really enjoyed the Clifton wrist watch case and found it very interesting to see how it was super-sized and re-designed in pocket watch form. So having a vintage-style pocket watch inspired by a vintage-style modern wrist watch is sort of interesting. Perhaps not totally without precedent, but interesting nonetheless.
At 50mm wide in 18k red gold, the Baume & Mercier Clifton 1830 Pocket Watch Repeater case is finely finished and the harmony of the case is only disrupted by the five-minute repeater slider. The dial features only the time, and in many ways, the pocket watch very much feels like a desk clock version of the wrist watch. In person, the emotional connection to the fist-sized machine is interesting. There is something about the large nature of pocket watch movements that makes them a bit more approachable than smaller wrist watch movements. Baume & Mercier made especially sure that the movement was both highly decorated and skeletonized in order to complete the visual experience. So, in many ways, the appeal of the Baume & Mercier Clifton 1830 Pocket Watch Repeater is really in its collectible and design value. There is almost nothing practical about the item (little is in the luxury watch industry), but when you put it on the included spruce wood and Kevlar resonance board and activate the five-minute repeater to hear the chimes, all practicality ceases to matter.
Unlike a minute repeater that when activated “repeats” the current time to the user back to the minute, a five minute repeater does the same thing but only to the nearest five minutes. That means it isn’t as complicated as a minute repeater – but ideally, less expensive. With that said, the Baume & Mercier Clifton 1830 Pocket Watch Repeater is a five-minute repeater, but I can’t help but feel it has close to a full minute repeater’s price. I don’t mean to be harping on the cost so much, but without a large established market and mostly “image” and collector value for luxury pocket watches, I feel as though the price could have been more attractive to spur attention for the brand. Actually, maybe what I am saying is exactly opposite of the reality, and for the maximum collector and media value, the price for the pocket watch should have been more.
You need to realize that a few feet away from Baume & Mercier at Watches & Wonders 2015, at the booth for Vacheron Constantin, was the one-of-a-kind “world’s most complicated” reference 57260 pocket watch on display. Sized like a Texas Hamburger and totally unattainable, the 57260 probably created some pocket watch envy and makes the Baume & Mercier Clifton 1830 Pocket Watch Repeater look like a solid value – and highly available, with 30 of them out there for sale. The item is actually beautiful, and very cleverly designed, I just wish it was intended to be a bit more attainable. Pocket watches offer a huge novelty value and are great for all watch lovers, but at prices like this, Baume & Mercier more or less prevented the majority of their customers from ever getting one.