On the subject of an in-house movement, Baume & Mercier CEO Alain Zimmermann is clear: “Throughout the 20th century, high-end watchmaking was carried out from the perspective of the client – precision and reliability were paramount. And then, a few years ago, all the hype about manufacture calibres started. Everybody challenged me on why Baume did not have its own movement. But for me, if we were going to do it, it had to have meaning and not just be for the sake of it. And, most importantly, it could not have a negative impact on the price of the watch.”
So, when Zimmermann decided the time was right for a new B&M calibre, the specifications were based on client expectations – namely the experience of the client with after-sales service. Although the return rate of Baume & Mercier watches within their warranty period has always been low – only about 4 per cent – this was still considered too high. So, over a period of time, every watch returned, from more than 100 countries, was analysed to discover why it had stopped or experienced a reduction in accuracy.
As Zimmermann says: “Baume & Mercier is not manufacture, nor do we want to be. The idea has always been for us to keep what we consider the most important areas of manufacture – development, assembly and quality control – internal, and to select the best of external suppliers for the fabrication of components. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always easy to add our own specifications, but because things have changed at Richemont in the past decade, we have been able to do just this. And this evolution has allowed us to bring this project – this new movement – to fruition.”
The Richemont “change” that Zimmermann refers to is the creation of a Research and Innovation Hub consisting of around 50 experts working on precious metal research, casing and bracelet advancement, surface treatment technology, movement development and straps and skins design. Working alongside these experts and the Manufacture Horlogère ValFleurier, the creative and technical teams at Baume & Mercier have been able to develop the brand’s first self-winding proprietary movement – the Baumatic BM12-1975A calibre.
Zimmermann knew that to achieve his goal of producing an innovative new movement with better performance at the right price, the R&I Hub was where he needed to go – to unitise the skills of the best people in the industry. His brief involved focusing on four specific areas for improvement: sensitivity to magnetic fields, autonomy, accuracy and durability. All of these were achieved in part through the development of a silicon regulating organ and escapement.
Although a watch is considered antimagnetic if it is able to withstand a magnetic field of 60 Gauss, the new Clifton Baumatic is resistant to at least 1500 Gauss, thanks to the use of the non-ferromagnetic elements. While the use of silicon reduces loss of efficiency due to friction, as well as increasing the time between servicing intervals. The material is also antimagnetic, light and resistant to corrosion, temperature and vibration.
The next issue was autonomy and finding a way to increase the power reserve of the watch to 120 hours. This has been done by optimising the size of the barrel and the material used for the spring. The longer power reserve also addressed part of the third issue: accuracy. To this end, the Baumatic is COSC-certified, ensuring accuracy of -4/+6 seconds per day thanks to its new silicon hairspring and variable-inertia balance wheel.
Finally, in order to meet the new recommended servicing guidelines of five year intervals (as opposed to the previous three-year guideline), the Richemont R&I Hub developed new lubricants, which have all undergone rigorous stress testing simulating more than 10 years of intense use making maintenance cycles for the Baumatic watches considerably longer than in the past.
So, in the late summer of 2018, Baume & Mercier will introduce its new in-house movement to the world cased in the Clifton Baumatic. And, as for Zimmermann’s opening comment about keeping B&M watches at “the right price”, this was probably the hardest goal of all to meet. However, the brand has not only met it, it has smashed it, retailing the stylish three-hander with date for an astonishing £2290!
Clifton Baumatic Technical Specification:
Proprietary self-winding calibre Baumatic BM12-1975A; hours, minutes, seconds; date; 120-hour power reserve; 4Hz, COSC-certified
40mm polished/satin-finished stainless steel; sapphire crystal caseback; water-resistant to 50m
Interchangeable black alligator-leather strap with slate-grey stitching