The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) is a hotbed for seriously high-end watches and cutting-edge creative watchmaking. We already showed you the best everyday watches we found at this year’s SIHH, along with the best ladies’ watches. Now it’s time for the crazy stuff. These are the timepieces of which horological dreams are made, some a little more attainable than others. Get ready to have your mind blown – these are team HODINKEE’s grail watches of SIHH 2017.
Cara Barrett – A. Lange Söhne 1815 Annual Calendar
You may think this watch is a little understated for a grail watch, but to me a real grail is something wearable and not just a watch that would collect dust in my hypothetical safe. The new Lange Annual Calendar really stuck with me after our visit to SIHH. It’s well-balanced, well-finished, and has the right amount of complication that makes it both exciting and useful. The new manually-wound caliber L051.3 features a 72-hour power reserve and is just a gorgeous thing to look at through the sapphire caseback. The 40mm watch is available in rose and white gold, but I would go with the latter because white gold is kind of my thing.
€37,500 (approximately $39,915 at time of publishing); alange-soehne.com
Ben Clymer – A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Decimal Strike
The Zeitwerk is kind of the best Lange. I don’t mean it’s literally the best in any way, but it is just so different from anything being made by anyone else. And, as I’ve said before, it represents such a wonderful entrée into the brand. This year, we have an absolutely stunning iteration of this awesome machine is maybe the most Lange configuration yet – it’s honey gold, only being made in 100 pieces, and with tremblage on the dial and hammers. Oh, did i mention it’s a chiming watch? Yup, it strikes every 10 minutes, which is just the right amount when you’re talking about a digital, decimal-based watch. This is so much high-end watchmaking per dollar. And in this color? Just killer.
€120,000 (approximately $128,360 at time of publishing); alange-soehne.com
Jack Forster – Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication
For a watch to be a grail watch, it has to have two ingredients: it should be in some way superlative and it should be difficult to obtain. Winning a grail requires a little (or a lot) of suffering, after all. On both counts, I think the Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication fits the bill – to a T, I might add. I absolutely love astronomical complications; I find them wonderfully evocative of everything that makes watches and clocks interesting in the first place, and they connect the human experience of time to the vastness of the universe in a way no other type of watch can. The Celestia isn’t just a great astronomical timepiece of great complexity; it also offers fascinating variations on how astronomical complications are usually done. And difficult to obtain? If you want a watch you can’t have, look no further; not only was this a (roughly) million dollar watch, it’s also a unique piece.
Approximately $1 million; vacheron-constantin.com
Stephen Pulvirent – Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos 568 By Marc Newson
Walking into the SIHH, one of the things I was most excited to see wasn’t even a watch. It was this clock. And, in case you couldn’t tell already, the new Atmos 568 didn’t disappoint. In fact, I ended up like this thing a lot more in person than I thought I would based on the original photographs I saw when it debuted. The thick, solid crystal base has an almost monumental quality to it, giving the clock a lot of emotional gravity while still remaining visually light. As you walk around it, every angle provides a different look at the movement inside too. One of my favorite things about Marc Newson’s Atmos designs is that they feel like actual collaborations, equal parts Newson and JLC. This one is no exception.
Arthur Touchot – Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision
If I could spend an unfathomable amount of money on a watch, I’d like to know that I was supporting independent watchmaking in the process. With that in mind, I’d reach for the new platinum Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision. It’s the simplest, and by implication the most wearable, Greubel Forsey tourbillon ever made. Getting to a round 40mm case was actually not that simple, and required the addition of a sapphire bubble on the recto of the watch, but those few extra millimeters go completely unnoticed when the watch sits on the wrist. It’s kind of magic, really. The chocolate dial version is my pick out of the three new references, due to its versatility.
Louis Westphalen – Ressence Type 1 Squared
I would not have expected to pick the futuristic-looking Ressence Type 1 as a grail watch, but I can’t shake off the impression that the new Squared example left on me. Handling a Ressence is always an experience, but the new case shape pushes the envelope even further; it truly feels like the original concept has achieved maturity. It has a thinner profile, increasing the comfort of the wrist, and there is something to be said about the contrast between the polished steel of the case and the brushed finish of the dial, especially with the blue one. The overall legibility remains outstanding, in daylight and in the dark alike, with one the most seducing lume configurations I have ever seen; discovering this feature sealed the deal.