Baume & Mercier’s Clifton is the vessel for Richemont’s first silicon balance spring, the TwinSpir
By James Gurney
You have to question the timing: the news arrived as the watch world was heading off to Baselworld and Baume & Mercier isn’t really heavyweight enough to stop people in their tracks. The Richemont Group’s most accessible brand does, nevertheless, regularly produce good horological news, but that isn’t the brand’s main focus, so those stories don’t always get the oxygen they deserve and they do deserve a wider audience: the impressive annual series has already included a flying tourbillon, a perpetual calendar and, even, a 5-minute Repeater.
This year the focus is on a new silicon balance spring for the Clifton 1830 developed at ValFleurier, Richemont’s mammoth component production and research facility (ValFleurier did much of the heavy lifting for the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate watch).
Surprisingly, this is the group’s first significant use of silicon on the escapement – even recently designed series production movements from IWC have relied on conventional materials and production methods. With the Swatch Group, Kering, LVMH and even Patek Philippe having years of experience with silicon components to call on, the surprise should, perhaps, be that we’ve had to wait so long.
It’s baby-steps so far as while the balance spring does reflect an innovation, it’s still matched to a conventionally made balance and escapement assembly. The slightly grandiose “TwinSpirTM” name refers to the spring being a composite of two silicon layers with each layer having an opposing orientation.
Apparently this improves silicon’s already impressive isothermism and, if nothing else, allows for the deployment of the term anisotropy, which refers to the way different behaviours (such as elasticity) are exhibited in different directions. Baume & Mercier also points out that having a silicon balance spring helps reduce the sensitivity of the movement to magnetic fields, which begs the question of why they were content to use ferrous metals for the rest of the escapement.
If TwinSpir is not exactly ground-breaking in industry terms, it is significant in terms of the Richemont group, though it’s somewhat ironic that the news was released a day after Montblanc debuted the group’s first foray into the world of connected watches (the Montblanc Summit, which we covered here). But, take away the significance or otherwise of the Clifton 1830’s technology and you have a very smart, simple watch from a brand that has more history and heritage than most. And at £11,500 it’s both good value and something you’re unlikely to see too many other people wearing.