My relationship with Baume & Mercier watches goes back to the early days of my interest in timepieces. It was in the late 1990s that I recall seeing beautiful watches like the Capeland at jewelry stores and always admiring the way they blended Old-World design with contemporary interest. One of the Baume & Mercier collections from back then was the Riviera, which has returned recently in a slew of three-hand, as well as chronograph, models. Today, I review the Baume & Mercier Riviera Automatic Chronograph by looking at two references: the 10623 with a blue dial on a matching strap, and the 10624 with a black dial on a matching steel bracelet.
Some context — Baume & Mercier is in a transitional mode and is one of the brands in the Richemont Group. Indeed, the brand is smaller today and less active than in the past, but if you talk to the people at Baume & Mercier today, they will tell you that they are in the midst of rebuilding and rediscovering the brand. To be honest, I’ve never really quite understood why Richemont struggled with Baume & Mercier given that the products were well-designed, well-priced, and well-made. What Baume & Mercier didn’t have is much of a marketing personality, and thus demand was tepid amongst the mainstream. This occurred primarily as a result of Baume & Mercier no longer being able to rely on some traditional retail distribution channels and not finding a groove in the new Internet-first timepiece sales economy. Nevertheless, I’ve always rooted for Baume & Mercier and found a large assortment of its new watches both well-conceived and fairly priced. Let’s see how the new Riviera Chronograph watches play into the mold of the Baume & Mercier watches I’ve very much come to enjoy.
Note that Baume & Mercier does have some in-house-made movements, but not chronographs. The Baumatic movements are really slick and mostly found in Baume & Mercier Clifton products. So in these watches, we have Swiss Made ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movements that operate at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. The day/date calendar and 12-hour chronograph make up the complications on the dial, and the overall visage of the watch is marked by the Riviera’s angular 12-sided geometric bezel design.
Baume & Mercier calls this strong, sporty case look “assertive,” and I agree. This is a bold, youthful watch with large proportions but a shape and character that is supposed to still be classy. Baume & Mercier did a very nice job of taking the previous Riviera watches and making them a bit larger and more modern but also keeping a true-to-original sense of character and wearability. From a shape perspective and build quality, this is the classic Baume & Mercier that I love, but not everyone will like the larger size and aggressive stance.
The steel case is 43mm-wide without the crown or pushers and is 14.1mm-thick. The lug-to-lug distance is about 52mm. That doesn’t sound super-large on paper, but given the wide lugs and the overall boldness of the dial, the Riviera Automatic Chronograph does wear on the large size for those sensitive about that sort of consideration. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters without a screw-down crown, and over the dial is a flat, AR-coated sapphire crystal. Another crystal is fixed to the rear of the watch to offer a view of the nicely decorated Valjoux 7750 automatic movement inside.
I think most people will like the Riviera case in terms of both its design and its finishing. The bezel gets a particular nod to the industrial theme of the watch, with the use of four hex screws that are used to help affix it. There’s also a decorative element and added personality. The Riviera watch dials are effective but not revolutionary. They consist of a textured face with a sort of geometric wave pattern on it and easy-to-read applied hour markers and matching hands. The chronograph subdials are minimalized as just markers printed on the face, which is actually done to nice effect here. Aside from the cut-off 12 o’clock Roman numeral hour marker, there is little to complain about on the face, even though it doesn’t ooze with as much character as the Riviera case. I will also gladly admit that the hour and minute hands are pretty nice-looking (and legible), and both the hands for the time and the hour markers are painted with Super-LumiNova luminant material.
Baume & Mercier includes a quick-release system to remove the strap or bracelet without any tools. Though you will need a strap or bracelet from Baume & Mercier if you want to wear the watch on a different strap choice on account of the proprietary attachment system. Baume & Mercier is helpful, as it does sell extra rubber straps on its website for a current price of $165 USD each. Speaking of the rubber strap, it does need to be cut to size, which for me is a bit last-generation. This system works well enough once you get the watch sized, but it doesn’t offer much in the ability to share your watches with others, and there isn’t any micro-adjust feature. Both the matching steel three-link Riviera bracelet and the rubbers strap close with a standard butterfly deployant clasp.
The latest generation Baume & Mercier Riviera Automatic Chronograph watches are highly competent timepieces and comfortable to live with. While the design doesn’t immediately scream identity or personality, these are safe, conservative choices for someone seeking a youthful lifestyle sports watch. There Baume & Mercier could struggle a bit is in terms of pricing. While it is a nicely made timepiece, the Baume & Mercier Riviera watches are a bit on the pricey side with an entry price point of $1,850 in a 36mm-wide quartz model. The men’s 42mm-wide three-hand automatic models start at $2,500 and go to $3,550 for the Riviera three-hand models that include the in-house Baumatic movements. The Riviera Automatic Chronograph watches start at $3,750 USD for the reference 10623 on the strap. The reference 10624 on the steel bracelet has a retail price of $3,900 USD, while the Baume & Mercier Riviera Automatic Chronograph currently tops out with the black-coated steel (with gold accents) on rubber strap reference 10625 which has a price of $4,200 USD. Learn more at the Baume & Mercier watches website here.
>Brand: Baume & Mercier
>Model: Riviera Automatic Chronograph (references 10623 and 10624 in review)
>Price: $3,750 – $3,900 USD as tested
>Size: 43mm-wide, 14.1mm-thick, ~52mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As assertive yet refined modern sports watch with conservative, classic appeal.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Larger-wristed person seeking durable and versatile daily wear with an easy-to-read face who would make use out of the strap swapping system.
>Best characteristic of watch: Well designed and produced case with an easy-to-live-with dial and modern sporty wearing character.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Lack of micro-adjust in bracelet or strap. Dial isn’t highly distinctive. Prices are high given the current market competition.