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Why not...? - Simplicity and the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Chronometer

Why not...? Simplicity and the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Chronometer

Our collector invites you to cast aside your fantasies and consider a more tangible and affordable type of watchmaking.

Sometimes we need to bring our passion for watches back down to earth. Many people like grand complications, innovative design and technical prowess. We are naturally attracted to anything that is shiny, unique or sensational.

If you visit a motor show, there will be crowds gathered around the stands of the most prestigious marques, jostling for a small chance to sit in Connolly leather seats or hold the steering wheel of a 1,000-horsepower supercar for a few seconds.

Why? So that they can dream. Because all passions are based on dreams. But once the passion is there, it is also a potential source of frustration. How many of us will ever have the opportunity to turn the dream into reality? Probably very few.

The passion for watches is similar in all respects. The unaffordable superwatches make the podiums and the cover pages of watch magazines. They are beautiful, they are complicated and they are – very – expensive. We may talk about them a lot, but we rarely see them on the wrists of our neighbours or colleagues. They are living their own lives, somewhere in the world, but not in the “real” world. 

You will have recognised here the watches that we consider “Haute Horlogerie”. This way of categorizing watches always made me think that, if there is an “haute horlogerie” (“high” watchmaking), then there should logically also be a “low” watchmaking…

And that is what I am going to talk about today.

The watch industry is often looked at through the distorting prism of high-end watchmaking and inaccessible watches.

But once the exhibitions have closed and these watches have been returned to the safe, we are left “alone” with our wrists and the watches we can actually afford. It is at this precise moment that watchmaking becomes real and tangible. Now that the dream – or dare I say fantasy – has passed, the time comes to look at affordable watches, the ones that we will wear every day and that we like because they are real.

So we have to face up to reality: the watch is a futile object and most of the rest of the world doesn’t really care about it. It should look nice and tell the time. That’s it.

But for us, it must be something more. It should excite us, help us to live our passion and must in no way be “banal”. It may never be “haute horlogerie”. It will never have a tourbillon or a minute repeater, but it will nevertheless be seductive and accessible.

I am a great fan of this simple watchmaking, that can be both easy and demanding. In my opinion it is relatively easy to develop an exceptional watch for an exceptionally high price, but it’s much harder to combine technical innovation with good value. Some people even look at the equation with disdain. And that’s a mistake, because this is precisely where our passion becomes human. 

These simple – but never banal – watches are what feed our passion. They educate us and often allow us to experience our first horological emotions. They are a part of our lives and help us to build our horological experience. They are the pillar of “normal” watchmaking, which we experience everywhere and which brings us together.

So it’s time to thank the brands who offer us this unique opportunity to make dreams reality. This is why the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic deserves our attention and our respect.

Why Baume & Mercier?

Almost 15 years ago, for my 40th birthday, my wife gave me a Baume & Mercier Hampton Spirit, a nice watch with a classic, solid and timeless design.

After all these years, the watch is still as appealing and easy to wear. It has not only survived the years without incident – it has not aged either! It’s simple and reasonable without falling into the trap of banality. That is one of the great strengths of Baume & Mercier, which was established in 1830 in Geneva.

Baume & Mercier may be best known for its ladies’ watches and its complicated pieces, but its style has gradually evolved. Its logo – the Greek letter Phi – symbolizes balance and this is indeed the brand’s constant quest: a balance between innovation and classicism, between simplicity and sophistication, between timeless style and the ability to adapt to different periods.  

Today, Baume & Mercier offers five collections that cover a broad range. The brand from Geneva continues to celebrate classic watchmaking with simple and well-made watches that are never boring. It dares to leave the beaten track with colourful sports watches and even tries to bring some grand complications out of their ivory towers!

The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Chronometer: the tightrope walker

During the SIHH 2019 Baume & Mercier presented a new version of the Clifton Baumatic.

La simplicité et la Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Chronomètre

Calibre BM13-1975A © Baume & Mercier

In 2018 the brand caused a stir at the same show with a watch powered by the Baumatic BM13-1975A, a new in-house movement that offered five days of power reserve, antimagnetic protection – all in a 40mm case with seductive curves. Some models had chronometer certification, which confirmed the quality of the movement. In 2019, a model with a smoked blue dial has been added to the Baumatic collection. I already liked the previous versions, but I have to admit that the blue Clifton is in a different league.

La simplicité et la Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Chronomètre

Calibre BM13-1975A © Baume & Mercier

The colour gradient on the blue dial offers greater possibilities if you want to play with your watch. It has a less classic look than the white and black dials and highlights other aspects of the watch, like the round case and the details on the dial.

One of the most interesting aspects of the dial is the horizontal and vertical decorations. This distinguishes the chronometer versions from the other models and gives the Clifton a genuine look. I’m not really sure how these lines change things, but they seem to give the elongated markers even more presence and the dial greater relief. All this is, of course, accentuated further by the blue gradient, in particular the way in which the almost black shade of blue around the circumference of the dial helps the seconds numerals to stand out.

Simplicity and the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Chronometer

Clifton Baumatic Chronometer on a steel bracelet © Baume & Mercier

Apart from these fundamental details, the Clifton Baumatic Chronometer offers us a date and a screw-on sapphire crystal back that reveals the great finishing of the BM13-1975A.

Our 2019 model comes into two versions, one on an alligator strap and another on a steel bracelet.

Simplicity and the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Chronometer

Clifton Baumatic Chronometer on a leather strap © Baume & Mercier

So here is a nice watch that is easy to wear and pairs elegance with the ability to vary its style according to your tastes. It has charm, technical excellence and a real look. It is the perfect example of a watch that puts simplicity before arrogance and makes fine watchmaking available to as many people as possible.

What does the devil’s advocate think?

For him, there is nothing worse than allowing passion to become something reasonable. The Baumatic is too human and just too nice to appeal to our devil’s advocate.

On a more serious note, however, even with such quality, we can make a few small remarks:

First, the size. At the SIHH 2019, Baume & Mercier also presented a model in red gold with a 39mm case. I would also have liked to see this size for our blue version. The lines on the dial and the blue colour give the Clifton a vintage edge and the 39mm size would have been more appropriate.

Simplicity and the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Chronometer

Clifton Baumatic Chronometer in red gold © Baume & Mercier

Then there is the strap. Alligator may seem to be a must for classic watches, but that’s wrong. I can see this Baumatic working very well with a much simpler strap, in gold or dark-brown velours calfskin. It would give it even more style.

How to wear this Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Chronometer with style and simplicity?

Everything has been said. The Clifton does not need any excess or sophistication. It needs something nice, classic and well made. You could wear it dressy or casual. I would prefer the latter, which is better suited to the vibe – and the weather – in California!

So let’s start by changing the strap.

Since this comes with a quick-change mechanism, you’ll need to look for some 20mm spring bars and then the choice is yours. For me it’s straight to Bulang & Sons, whose choice of straps is both rich and original. For the Clifton it would have to be a rugged grey leather strap, a Piombo grey leather NATO or a light-brown suede. This colour palette will give your Clifton a more rough-and-ready style, or show off the dial even more thanks to the contrast with a colour like sand.

Other than that, don’t overplay things.

Instead of the classic blazer, let’s try a jacket. I can see the blue Clifton on NATO going well with an olive-green Baracuta G9 Harrington jacket from J. Crew. This famous English jacket was worn as well by Frank Sinatra as it was by the D-Day hero Lord Lovat.

Under the jacket, go for a T-shirt. Again, let’s keep it simple and effective with something from Uniqlo, ideally with a V neck. Then a pair of Venezia chinos from the Italian brand Slowear/Incotex.

Finish this off with a lightweight scarf by Zadig&Voltaire and a pair of Dome sneakers from Buscemi to complete the casual look that goes perfectly with the simplicity of the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic.

No need to get behind the wheel of a sportscar. Just wander around the streets of your favourite city and let time go by… That is true luxury.

The brand

The Baume & Mercier watchmaking Maison has always had powerful emotional and celebratory connotations, while expressing watchmaking excellence in all its creations. Since 1830, it has embodied a family history in which a passion for detail and a quest for excellence convey a firm commitment: to perpetuate its heritage while being an essential partner of memorable moments. For Baume & Mercier, time is far more than just a sequence of seconds,...

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