If you want a handsome, Swiss-made chronograph around the $5,000 mark, there are a number of great options: the OMEGA Speedmaster, the TAG Heuer Carrera, the Breitling Navitimer. These are iconic watches that have stood the test of time thanks to their association with racing, aviation and space travel during the 1950s and ’60s. For better or for worse, they are safe, obvious choices. But there is something to be said about choosing to go against the grain with a watch that’s a little more obscure. The Baume & Mercier Capeland is one such option.
The Capeland, relaunched in 2011, uses the name of a series of chronographs Baume & Mercier made in the 1990s. Yet while the watch uses the old Capeland name, the design of the new timepiece is loosely inspired by a chronograph Baume & Mercier released in the late 1940s. The New Capeland, though, is not a retread of old designs. While it has some very ’40s cues — for instance its rounded, propellor-like hour and minute hands and numerals that invoke the early mid-century font of a Monopoly board — those are combined seamlessly with modern design conventions, like its large 44mm case.
Even with a substantially thick 14.5mm case, the Capeland is comfortable to wear. This is a result of the case, with its rounded case back and sculpted, curved lugs. The movement inside the case is a La Joux Perret 8120, an automatic chronograph beating at 28,800 vph based on the lauded ETA 7750. The 7750 can trace its roots back to the early ’70s, and has since been used in a number of chronographs from brands like Heuer, Sinn and even OMEGA.
The dial is a busy place, but it’s the watch’s biggest design asset. It’s home to a tachymeter scale, a red telemetric scale, three sub-dials for the chronograph and Arabic numerals for each hour, sans three, six and nine o’clock. Even with all these markings, the interplay is balanced and clean. Baume & Mercier managed to leave enough blank space to make the busy dial work, compared to, say, the Breitling Navitimer’s markings, which nearly fill up its entire dial.
See, the Capeland is all about the little details. Every marking, every curve of the case comes together in a mishmash of vintage and modern design. It’s not an uber-engineered watch or a timepiece with decades of history behind it. It was not worn on the moon, nor is it favored by pilots, nor is it an iconic racing watch worn by the playboy F1 racers of the ’60s and ’70s. It is simply a unique, relatively obscure and meticulously designed watch for the buyer who wants to be different.