Baume & Mercier has produced the first “in-house” automatic movement in its 187 year history. Meet the Clifton Baumatic
by James Buttery
Baume & Mercier has decided the time is ripe to flex Richemont’s newly focused R&D muscle and produce its first ever automatic manufacture movement, the Baumatic BM12-1975A.
The movement is the work of Richemont’s new innovation hub within Neutchâtel’s Microcity, a prominent industry laboratory and think-tank. The incubator unit officially opened in the summer but is set to expand in 2018 to include some 20 engineers.
The combination of Richemont’s new R&D efforts with the group’s movement manufacturing company, ValFleurier, allowed Baume to produce a suitably advanced movement, when compared to the third party movements it uses more commonly, and still bring it in at a price that would make sense to the brand’s customers.
Housed inside the equally new Clifton Baumatic, the new movement seeks to address the kind of mundane but important issues faced by watch owners, namely resistance to magnetism, chronometric precision, power reserve and durability. In terms of magnetism that means guarding against everyday sources, with the brand more interested in guarding against iPads than MRI machines.
When we were shown the watch in November, Baume & Mercier’s chief operating officer Daniel Braillard was on hand with a demonstration that neatly illustrated just how strong the magnets inside some innocuous objects can be. By holding the magnetic clasp of a mobile phone case against a current collection Clifton, Braillard brought the movement to a dead stop. Such close proximity to a strong magnetic source not only stopped the watch in its tracks but magnetised the movement, so that even when the magnet was removed the watch’s performance would still be severely hampered until such time as it could be demagnetised.
Under the same conditions, the Clifton Baumatic continued to run. The watch is resistant to magnetic fields of up to 1,500 gauss which Braillard pointed out is enough to protect the watch from most everyday scenarios (although Omega recently informed us that even a simple iPad case can run to 3,000 Gauss, so watch this space).
This is due, in no small part, to the fact that the BM12-1975A is the first commercial movement from any Richemont brand to use both a silicon escapement and silicon hairspring. Bar waiting on Panerai to reveal what hairspring material it used for the ambitious Lab-ID, we’d struggle to disagree.
Silicon is not only considerably lighter (which also helps make the movement less power hungry) than traditional metallic alloys, but it is also less sensitive to changes in temperature and magnetism.
The hairspring is actually formed of two silicon cores set at 45° to each other and bonded using silicon dioxide, something the company are calling TWINSPIR, and has been developed to further guard against the effects of temperature on the balance spring in addition to inherent characteristics of silicon.
The geometry of both the escape wheel and pallet has also been tweaked considerably to reduce friction and improve the movement’s overall power efficiency.
Baume & Mercier’s focus on the escapement and balance wheel (together with the introduction of a new mainspring alloy and barrel size) has also upped the power reserve to five days or 120 hours and, while a weekend-spanning power reserve is all-well-and-good, if over that period chronometry deteriorates to the point where adjustment is required then that benefit is lost.
The brand wanted a watch that could be set down on a Friday and picked up on a Monday without fear of losing time. As such the COSC-certified movement lays down its power evenly over the course of its 120-hour power reserve, which is perhaps the most impressive feat it achieves, managing -4/+6 seconds/day accuracy over the course of its power reserve. New oils have also been developed to enhance standard service intervals beyond five years.
The Baumatic name has been revived from Baume & Mercier’s archives for this milestone, which is housed in a 40mm stainless steel watch which mixes polished and brushed finishes on its 10.3mm thick case. Its flat white dial has been sand-blasted and then lacquered to achieve a clean ‘porcelain-like’ finish. The new 28,800vph movement is 12.5 ‘“ across and 4.2mm deep and features a date window at the three o’clock position. The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic COSC is priced at £2,290.