The “petite aiguille” in French is what anyone who learned to tell the time in English first heard of as the “small hand”, or the hour hand. The name given to the category of watches with a retail price under 8,000 Swiss francs in the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix alludes to the “Aiguille d’Or”, which is the trophy awarded to the overall winner of the Grand Prix.
With the upper price limit being the only criterion in this category, it is the one category in which ladies’ watches compete head-to-head with gents’ watches, with ladies’ watches such as the Baume & Mercier Clifton and the Boucheron Reflet Large vying with gents’ watches from brands as diverse as Chronoswiss and Seiko.
For a shade over 3,000 Swiss francs, the 30mm Clifton ladies’ model from Baume & Mercier ticks all the boxes required for a classic luxury timepiece for ladies. At this price level, the case is of course in stainless steel, but the dial puts the watch in the luxury bracket with its mother-of-pearl base, diamond hour markers and gilt hands. Add to this the reliability of an ETA self-winding movement and 50 metre water resistance and the Clifton becomes a worthy contender as one of only three ladies’ watches in this category.
Boucheron’s “Reflet Large” model, on the other hand, offers a different aesthetic with various signature elements from the brand. The rectangular case, white lacquered dial and Roman numerals, completed by the cabochon on the crown and secret Vendôme column motif etched on to the sapphire crystal put this timepiece beyond comparison.
A renaissance of the regulator
Chronoswiss packs a lot into its new Sirius Régulateur model. As the rebirth of the first series-produced wristwatch with a regulator display, which the brand presented in 1988, the new regulator model offers the brand’s own in-house C.122 self-winding movement in a 40mm diameter stainless-steel case and with a guilloche-patterned solid sterling silver dial for a seemingly unbeatable 5,600 Swiss francs. As one of only three regulator-type watches in the entire competition, and certainly the only one at this price level, the Chronoswiss Sirius Régulateur sends out a strong signal at a time of significant change for the company, which has just opened its new manufacture building in Lucerne.
Hi-beat, higher exclusivity
The first Grand Seiko model to be equipped with a GMT function is available as a limited edition of only 600 watches worldwide. The calibre 9S86 used in this watch, a derivative of the calibre 9S85 launched in 2009, offers chronometer levels of accuracy thanks to the use of the company’s proprietary Spron 610 alloy for the balance spring, which offers greater resistance to magnetism and shocks.
The Seiko Hi-beat GMT also has an unusual titanium oscillating mass that takes up the entire case back and is anodized to give it a golden hue. Seiko chose titanium because of its high elasticity and its capacity to absorb vibrations, which thus reduces distortion of the weight and the impact on its bearings.
Encompassing everything from classic luxury to the latest in high-tech watchmaking developments, the “petite aiguille” category offers a snapshot of the luxury watchmaking landscape. The jury will undoubtedly face a difficult choice as it attempts to capture the current trends in this accessible category.