SIHH 2019: the independent watchmakers at the vanguard of future-tech designs

Showcased HM6 Final Edition
MB&F showcased HM6 Final Edition, one of the brand’s most successful designs now comes in stainless steel
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At this year’s SIHH the creative strength of a group of boutique-scale, independent designers and makers is manifesting in seriously impressive technical design.

MB&F have done as much as anyone to define an approach to horological design that owes more to Dan Dare than grandfather clocks. Somewhat unconventionally, MB&F chose the SIHH 2019 to retire one of their most successful designs. The HM6 (pictured, above) features revolving hour and minute spheres driven by conical gears, a platinum winding rotor regulated by twin aluminium turbines and a ‘flying’ 60-second tourbillon under the central, sapphire crystal dome, all powered by a 475-component movement developed entirely from scratch. The HM6 has appeared in platinum, rose gold, titanium and sapphire crystal, but for its last outing, as HM6 Final Edition, it comes in stainless steel.

Type 2A, Ressence

Type 2A watch by Ressence

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Ressence is the watchmaking project that’s taken over industrial designer Benoit Mintiens’ life. This year’s Type 2A launch, with its nested orbital discs floating just under the glass, is typically Ressence, but comes with a radical twist. Just visible on the dial are photovoltaic cells that power the ‘e-Crown’, a small assembly of electronics designed with the help of iPod godfather, Tony Fadell. The e-Crown can monitor the watch’s performance, change the time zone and correct the time, either through tapping the dial or via Bluetooth connection to an app.

UR-111C, Urwerk

UR-111C watch by Urwerk

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While Urwerk, at almost 25 years old, is one of the oldest of the new-wave independent watchmakers, its rise appears unstoppable. The UR-111C is quintessentially Urwerk. Full of clever ideas and made with an attention to detail that is the match of more obviously traditional makers, it demands to be handled and worked. The central roller both winds and sets the time (see the three apertures at the bottom of the case), while seconds are read via interlocking discs visible through a separate window.

H2O ‘Time is Fluid’, HYT

HYT watch

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That HYT have generated a barely credible amount of variation from a single concept is testament to the brand’s creativity and strength of its idea. The watch designs centre on one or more glass tubes that progressively fill with a coloured liquid as each hour or day progresses, giving a very clear sense of time elapsed. The technology to do this with the precision and reliability demanded by high-end watchmaking comes from another Swiss industrial specialism, medical equipment. The H2O ‘Time is Fluid’ is a three-dimensional design that sits somewhere between old-school watchmaking and cutting-edge mechanics. The H1.0, meanwhile, offers a more directly technical feel.

Arraw 6919, RJ

Arraw 6919 watch by RJ

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RJ, the brand formerly known as Romain Jerome, shot to fame after making watches that incorporated ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010. The brand’s Arraw 6919, debuted at SIHH 2019, has beyond-stratospheric ambitions with its clever moon-phase system and case inserts of acrylic glass set with fragments from the Apollo 11 Command Module. Even the strap has a lunar theme, with its pattern reminiscent of the footprints left on the moon by the Apollo astronauts.

James Gurney has written on watches for over 25 years, founding QP Magazine in 2003, the UK’s first home-grown watch title. In 2009, he initiated SalonQP, one of the first watch fairs to focus on the end-consumer, and is regarded as a leading horological voice contributing to news and magazine titles across the globe.