Silicon has arisen in the last several years as a wonder material in watchmaking. First utilized in an escapement by independent watchmaker Ulysse Nardin in 2001, the material has surfaced in movements from watchmakers like Omega, Rolex and even Patek Philippe. Silicon is non-ferrous, so it easily mitigates the negative effects that magnetism has on a watch movement. Its low friction and light weight also mean that it’s more efficient and durable than metallic counterparts, and is thus conducive to a more accurate, more efficient and more durable watch.
In 2017, Baumer & Mercier became the first watchmaker in the Richemont group to offer a watch with a silicon escapement, the gold-cased, hand-winding Clifton Manual 1830. This is interesting if you’re familiar with Baume & Mercer’s standing within the greater Richemont lineup — the brand is decidedly entry-level for the group (which owns brands like A. Lange & Söhne and Panerai), and it’s better known for classically-styled watches that use third-party movements, rather than for technical innovation. Sure enough, however, this limited-edition watch represented a major first for one of the world’s largest watchmaking conglomerates, and it paved the way for this: the Clifton Baumatic COSC.
The Baumatic uses the same silicon escapement as the Clifton 1830, but adds automatic winding and ditches the gold case for one of stainless steel. Whereas the 1830 was a 10-piece, $14,350 limited edition, this new watch is a mainstream model with an accessible sub-$3,000 retail price.
The Good: On a technical level, the Baumatic is one of the most impressive watches at its price point. The watch boasts, in addition to COSC-rated accuracy, anti-magnetism up to 1,500 gauss and a five-day power reserve. You won’t find too many other watches with silicon escapements in this price range, and certainly not many with this kind of power reserve. Additionally, Baume & Mercier claims the watch can run long past the watch industry’s standard three-to-five-year service interval. The Rest of the Baumatic is fairly handsome and well-proportioned, too, but it’s the movement and the performance that it brings at this price that makes the Baumatic one of the most exciting watch releases of the year.
Who They’re For: Baume & Mercier is firmly rooted as an entry-level luxury brand and is likely trying to court newbie luxury watch owners. The extended service interval is certainly appealing to mechanical watch owners intimidated by maintenance, and the watch’s relatively simple design language plays to the idea of a high-end watch that can be worn in most settings. The entry-level luxury watch field, however, is a crowded one, and so buyers interested in technical specs will be most drawn to Baumatic COSC.
Watch Out For: I understand why Baume & Mercier wants to advertise the COSC-accuracy and super-long power reserve — I’ve made it pretty clear they’re two of the most impressive aspects of the watch — but the branding at six o’clock is a bit…extra. For a watch that attempts, visually, to keep things simple and legible, it seems like a distracting and unnecessary touch that clutters up the watch face. Additionally, I found myself wishing there was a bit of lume on here. Lume is something you’ll find on pretty much any watch these days, dressy or not, and it’s something you take for granted until it’s not there.
Alternatives: If you find the Clifton Baumatic too pricey, Tissot’s Ballade Powermatic 80 offers many of the same benefits as the Baume & Mercier for around $1,000. It too has a silicon escapement and boasts COSC accuracy, and its 80-hour power reserve is still impressive, though not quite a match for the Baumatic. For around the $2,000 mark, you can also get the Longines Record, which too is a certified chronometer and packs a silicon balance spring. The Longines, however, has a 64-hour power reserve. If you can do without the COSC accuracy, you can get a non-chronometer version of the Clifton Baumatic for a couple hundred dollars less.
Review: While the movement inside the Clifton Baumatic is, as ofthis writing, exclusive to Baume & Mercier, the brand, which has mainly relied on movements supplied from third-party producers, makes no claims about being a manufacture. Rather, the movement is the product of a partnership between the brand, ValFlurier — a Richemont-owned movement maker — and Richemont’s research center in Neuchâtel. With their help, Baume & Mercier has incorporated a silicon balance spring and a silicon escapement into the movement that are together largely responsible for the Baumatic’s impressive specs.
Of course, there’s more to this watch than its internals, and the movement’s relatively compact size (according to Hodinkee it’s about on par with an ETA 2824) is conducive to a well-proportioned watch. The Clifton Baumatic comes in at 40mm in diameter and 10.3mm thick, so while it’s not exactly an ultra-thin, it’s pleasingly slim and a perfect middle ground for most wearers. The case itself is simple and sleek, with curved lugs and a beveled edge that runs along the edge from north to south.
The dial has finishing to match the case; while in images, the Clifton appears to be a simple white, in person it has a glossy, almost porcelain-like sheen, with black accents providing a good deal of contrast. The lancet-style hands and polished applied indices also work well with the sort of neo-vintage aesthetic the watch has going on, and a crosshair design segmenting the dial is another throwback detail. Aesthetically, the Clifton Baumatic doesn’t really try to break new ground and that’s alright; its appeal is drawn from its versatility. Though the black alligator strap suggests a watch made for dressier environs, you can easily dress it down by swapping out any number of more casual straps.
Verdict: Ideally, the Clifton Baumatic acts as a launching pad for this incredible new movement. Baume & Mercer’s offerings range from overtly sporty to strictly formal, so there’s a likelihood we’ll see the movement pop up more styles in the future. Whether or not it does, however, the Baumatic now represents an impressive achievement and smart move on behalf of Richemont. Watch buyers are becoming increasingly value-conscious, and the Baumatic will offer buyers wanting to get into the Richemont group a technically impressive watch at a reasonable price.
What Others Are Saying:
• “Our first impression after seeing the watch in person is of a practical, well-designed, un-ostentatious wristwatch very much intended to function as a daily companion, and to run reliably over the long term.” — Jack Forster, Hodinkee
• “I don’t think Baume & Mercier’s mission is done. They have a good-performing modern automatic mechanical movement in a watch designed to look like something from yesterday. I think Baume & Mercier can push themselves to come up with contemporary (yet still elegant) watches designed to fit movements such as the BM12-1975A.” — Ariel Adams, A Blog to Watch
Movment: Baume & Mercier BM12-1975A automatic
Case size: 40mm diameter; 10.3mm thick
Water resistance: 50m
Features: Date; chronometer accuracy
Power reserve: 5 days
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