SIHH 2017: The Ones That Tread A Brave New World
The world we live in is hurtling with increasing intensity towards the future–the new becomes old in the blink of an eye and we get ever more desperate for that hit of dopamine that comes from the next big innovation. But, while the floodgates are open, there are moments when through the mire we see true innovation emerge, lighting the path towards the future.
Many of the watches that were particularly memorable at this year’s SIHH have made their mark by using advancements at the very edge of science, adding to the current body of watchmaking know-how instead of reusing pre-existing ideas. Stronger, lighter, more resilient to wear-and-tear or just so intensely black that there can be “none more black,” material innovation once again led the way in Geneva.
The MCT Sequential One S110 EVO Vantablack may be a typical MCT in the vein we have come to expect, yet it is its use of an exotic material on its dial that ups the ante in aesthetic. Created in 2014 by UK-based Surrey Nanosystems, “Vantablack” is essentially a carbon coating that absorbs 99.965 per cent of all light that falls on it. The effect is surreal, with the movement seeming to float above a void – an illusion helped by the blackest man-made material ever made.
In the case of Panerai’s Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-Tech, it is the case material that is new and exciting. BMG-Tech or Bulk Metallic Glass comes with several advantages, such as being harder and lighter than steel, as well as more resistant to corrosion, external shocks and magnetic fields. The material is a glass-like alloy comprised of zirconium, copper, aluminum, titanium, and nickel, made via a high-pressure injection process at high temperatures before being flash-cooled. The result is a disordered atomic structure that gives rise to the unique properties of the material, perfect for its use in a hardwearing diving watch.
Carbon–a long-standing favorite material of the watch world–was again prevalent at SIHH. Using it in a slightly different manner is the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Carbon, with its movement plate, bridges and tourbillon upper cage entirely composed of this lightweight material. And, as every Roger Dubuis watch carries the Geneva Seal, this is possibly the first instance of a watch bringing these age-old and respected standards into the modern era.
Also from Roger Dubuis, the Quatuor Cobalt Micromelt, which comes with a special variation of a well-known hard, dense, and scratch-resistant material, Cobalt Chrome. While this alloy has been used in watchmaking before, it is the special process to create this particular version that differentiates it from others. The alloy starts as a fine powder that is mixed and filtered to retain only particles of a certain size, and then placed under high temperature and pressure processes to maximize its density. The purity of the Cobalt Chrome is 100 percent with this process, with no microscopic air bubbles or inclusions in the resulting billet.
What can we say about these watches aside from the fact that they imply an increasing reliance on the best of science to improve the way things are-in both small and large ways? Of course, we cannot know what else is still to come, but what we can say for sure is that the watches of the future will definitely be more innovative than the ones we have today. Exciting times are to come in the future of watchmaking.