Tweaked in a subtle but significant manner, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer now has a redesigned dial, along with larger hands to go along with it, giving it better legibility and proportions. The new dial is entirely luminous in the dark, including the hour numerals at the quarters, which did not glow on the old model.
And pleasing critics of the unappealingly short hands on the earlier version, the hands on the redesigned Explorer – hours, minutes and seconds – are longer and wider. The hands, as well as hour markers, are painted with Chromalight, a luminous material that glows blue in the dark.
Everything else about the Explorer remains the same. The case is still 39 mm and fitted on the Oyster bracelet, while the movement is the self-winding calibre 3132. The facelifted model replaces the existing one, however, both share the same model reference 214270.
The new Explorer ref. 214270 retails for SFr6200 including taxes. That’s equivalent to US$6200.
With the incredibly slender and light Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, Bulgari takes the title of the slimmest minute repeater at Baselworld 2016, claiming it from Jaeger-LeCoultre, which claimed it from Vacheron Constantin – all of which happened within the last three years. The irony is the movement inside the Octo repeater originates with a calibre that is 30 years old.
But first, the watch itself. The Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, case and all, measures just 6.85 mm high and 40 mm in diameter. This gives it an incredible feel on the wrist – compact, elegant and unbelievably light.
Despite its thinness, the repeater chimes are satisfyingly audible and pleasant. That is helped by the case made of titanium – the low density of the metal helps sound transmission – which is also hollowed out on the inside. Even the dial is titanium, with cut-outs for the hour markers to help transmit the sound.
The entire watch is a matte grey – a grained, sandblasted finish on the titanium case and a fine satin surface on the dial. Only a tiny bit of gilded metal is visible through the cut-outs on the dial.
The 35 year journey to the crown
Though the watch looks identifiably modern, the movement has a lengthy history. In 1981 Gerald Genta – then the world’s leading, high-end independent watchmaker – unveiled the thinnest minute repeating wristwatch ever, standing 2.72 mm high in its entirety, case and all. One of the most distinctive features of the movement was the button to activate the repeater, located at nine o’clock on the case band. The downside of that amazing example of horological engineering was its delicacy; the movement was prone to breaking.
So the movement was reengineered extensively, gaining a little bit of thickness but tremendous extra reliability and robustness. Subsequently it was inherited by Bulgari when the jeweller acquired Gerald Genta and its sister company Daniel Roth in 1999.
Now named the BVL calibre 362, the calibre is the slimmest minute repeating movement, just 3.12 mm high. That’s a good deal thinner than the 3.9 mm of the runner up, the calibre 1731 of Vacheron Constantin. And that is also likely the technical limit of a reliable minute repeater movement with a traditional construction, meaning it is not likely to be topped by anything else, unless a radical new construction is devised. While it took a long time to get here, the BVL calibre 362 is likely to retain its throne.
The Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater is a limited edition of 50 watches, priced at SFr160,000 or €165,000.
Piaget's flagship of its SIHH 2013 collection is the Emperador Coussin Minute Repeater, the brand's first in-house minute repeater. It also has the distinction of being the thinnest self-winding repeater on the market, standing just 9.4 mm high.
Having put denim and embroidery on the dials of its watches, Hublot has now turned to French shoemaker Berluti for its trademark Venezia leather, including the signature Berluti Scritto hide. Tanned to give it a variegated finish resembling the patina of age, Berluti’s leathers synonymous with the brand.
The Hublot and Berluti collaboration is available in two guises, both limited edition. The more affordable is the Classic Fusion Berluti All Black, a 500-piece limited edition in black ceramic and titanium with the dial and strap in nero grigio Venezia leather that’s a striking grey-black. The strap features the “Gaspard” slash, a fold in the leather secured by a single stitch. This is priced at SFR13,900 or S$23,400 in Singapore.
The Classic Fusion Berluti Scritto combines 18k King Gold, a rose gold alloy, with Venezia Scritto leather. Laser engraved with calligraphy, Scritto leather is Berluti’s most recognisable material, especially in the rich golden brown tobacco bis colour found here. This is limited to 250 pieces, with a price of SFr27,900 or S$46,800.
Both Classic Fusion Berluti watches are 41 mm in diameter, and come packaged in a large box covered in the same Berluti leather as the dial and strap. Inside is a Berluti leather watch pouch, along with various implements for polishing the leather, including wax and brushes.
Update March 18, 2016: Official retail price in Swiss francs added.