The United States is currently the largest watch market in the world, and the king of that market is the three-hand sports watch with a date window. Whether that’s your favorite kind of watch or not (and, yes, I know how many of you feel about the date window), talk to any retailer or brand rep and you’re going to get the same answer: to compete for customers and sales, you’ve got to have a strong sports watch.
While Baume & Mercier has had offerings that fit these criteria in the past, this year at SIHH we got a whole new line of dive watches in the Clifton Club. The collection takes some of the basic ideas behind the dressier and more complication-driven Clifton models (of which we’re big fans here at HODINKEE) and modifies them enough to give us a group of watches that feel fresh and fun.
The Clifton Club collection essentially consists of five models, plus some strap and bracelet variations that can be swapped in and out to get exactly what you’re looking for. All five start with the same construction, which includes a 42mm stainless steel case that comes in at a comfortable 10.3mm thick. With the short, curved lugs, the result is a watch that wears really close to the wrist and feels even slimmer than the measurements would suggest. Also, look at the thick bevels on the lugs below. The little bit of polish on the otherwise brushed case adds some contrast, plus it’s a nice nod to historic dive watches from the 1960s and 1970s.
Throughout the models you’ll notice bright orange accents on the running seconds hand as well as on the uni-directional dive bezels. In all cases the dials have a slightly stepped shape, with a recessed center section that goes a long way towards making the watches look high-end. There are also bright luminous markers at the hours and a large Phi logo (Baume & Mercier’s symbol) up at 12 o’clock. To be honest, I wish the Phi wasn’t there or was a bit smaller, but it’s not nearly as distracting in person as it appears in photos.
From there, you get a number of color and finish options. You can opt for a black dial with a steel bezel, a black dial with a black bezel, a white dial with a black bezel, a blue dial with a blue bezel, or, the boldest option of the bunch, an all black version with a black ADLC case. One nice touch is that the black-dial models all have black date discs for a more cohesive look.
As far as straps go, you’ve got a few options there as well. There’s a calfskin strap that Baume & Mercier calls the “All Roads” strap, which has a sailcloth pattern on it and orange trip (it looks exactly like fabric from a distance) a bright orange NATO-style strap, a vented black rubber strap (which you can see on the all-black model below), and a stainless steel link bracelet. I found the bracelet to be pretty comfortable, but the vented rubber strap was truly outstanding.
As it should, this watch has a closed caseback. There’s a nice big Club logo there to give you something to look at, and you’ll notice the caseback screws down to provide the 100m water resistance too. Underneath sits an SW200 movement from Sellita, which has a 38-hour power reserve and 26 jewels. It’s a great, well-priced workhorse movement and a nice choice here.
When I started trying on the various models, that’s when I was really convinced these were something worth paying attention to. On a table or in photos, the watches look plenty nice, but once you put one on you start to get a sense of the thought that went into the design. The watch wears extremely well for something 42mm across and even as someone who prefers smaller watches I could really see myself enjoying this one. The lugs are perfectly shaped for the proportions of the case and the watches are lightweight while still feeling substantial. Bezel action is as good as you’re going to find on a watch in this price category, and legibility is outstanding (as you’d expect from a watch like this).
Ultimately, I think the Clifton Club is going to be a success for Baume & Mercier. It’s a clearly well-made dive watch that is extremely easy and comfortable to wear while having enough unique details to set it apart from the competition. If you’re up for a super traditional diver that screams “tool watch,” it might not be the best option for you, but if you’re looking for something with a little more of a sporty, fun vibe to it, I think you’ll be really happy with this watch. My personal favorite is the white dial version on the NATO it’s a nice change from the usual dark colors found on sport watches and feels like it would be right at home by the pool with an Aperol Spritz.
The new Clifton Club collection is available now. Pricing is $1,950 for the steel models on straps, $2,100 for the steel models on a bracelet, and $2,250 for the black ADLC model on a rubber strap. For more, visit Baume & Mercier online.