Luxury Watches-- Haute Horlogerie is Happening
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) What's got two titanium cylinders, resembles an A-10 fighter jet and retails for around $158,000? If your answer was a supercar from an exotic European carmaker, think again: we are talking about a "superwatch," MB&F's HM4 Thunderbolt to be specific. While you could be excused for thinking the MB&F HM4 sounds like a car model the name derives the MB from company founder Michael Büsser, his watchmaking associates are the Friends (F), while HM4 is an abbreviation for Horological Machine number 4.
Welcome to the exclusive club of Haute Horlogerieluxury watches comprised of some 60 brands around the world that do an impressive $35 billion of business among them. For connoisseurs of haute horlogerie, the watch is a high fashion accessory. Period.
However, if you do want to tell the time on the twin-cylinder HM4 Thunderbolt, it's pretty simplethe right titanium cylinder tells the time. What does the left cylinder do? It tells you how much gas the watch has before it needs a refuelwhich is done by hand winding a crown on the left cylinder. The two cylinders are connected with a bridge made of a single piece of sapphire. This contains the movementcomprised of over 300 intricate parts. The maker plans to make only 25 to 30 of these titanium timekeepers.
While the masses fret over whether their latest $500 mobile handset has enough of a wow factor to make their neighbor/co-worker/sibling jealous, the one-percenters have their own thing going on in the stratospheric reaches. It's not just about the price tagthough a Patek Calibre 89 at a mind boggling $5 million will blow the competition away. The appeal hinges on the fact that each watch is unique to the point of being eccentricin design, material, and mechanics.
Take the François Quentin 4N, which takes a high-minded dig at common digital watches by reproducing a digital display through two opposing sets of mechanical disks that simulate the hours and minutes. Only 16 of these watches will be produced, at a price tag around $200,000. For the sporty minded among the Über-rich, there is the Richard Mille RM027 Tourbillonthe "Rafael Nadal" watch that the tennis superstar wore on his way to victory at the 2012 French Open. This watch is made largely of carbon composites that keep its weight down to a mere 20 grams, and only 50 of these athletic artifacts were made. The price tagrumored to be around $700,000.
The need to innovate and be different sometimes makes for interesting choices. This is illustrated best by Swiss watchmaker Antoine Martin the brand's Slow Runner. The beat rate of a mechanical watch's balance (the wheel and spring mechanic) is extremely important to the accuracy of time keeping. The higher the beat rate, the more accurate a mechanical watch is likely to be. Slow Runner takes a revisionist approacha watch that has a beat rate of 1 Hz instead of the usual 3-4 Hz. Instead of gazing at the dial to see the time, what Antoine Martin wants is for you to flip the watch over and watch the 24mm balance beat away through a sapphire window.