Baume & Mercier Clifton 1830 Pocket Watch


Words and Photography: Gisbert Brunner​

News from Watch & Wonders in Hongkong: Baume & Mercier presents the “Clifton 1830” Pocket Watch with 5 minute repetition
Gisbert Brunner

Gisbert L. Brunner was born in 1947 and has worked with every sort of precision timepiece, though mainly wristwatches, since the 1960s. He has now published more than 15 books on the subject. He is also in demand the world over as a public speaker.

“The higher form of person,” Georg Christoph Lichtenberg once said, “lets the whole history of the world repeat, just like you let a watch repeat.” Here is not the place to debate the history of the world, but rather the history of Swiss watchmaker Baume & Mercier. It stretches back to 1830, when Joseph-Célestin and Louis-Victor Baume established the “Société Baume Frères” in Le Bois, a small village in the Bernese Jura.

Among their most important products are, logically enough, pocket watches. From the early 1890s came a model with a gold case. The timepiece had a filigree minute tourbillon to compensate for gravity’s malign influence on the movement accuracy. Responsible for production was Albert Pellaton-Favre, one of the great masters of his métier back in the day.



Following the positive reception for this precision instrument, it was included in a chronometer competition in England’s Kew Observatory in 1892. It came away with a sensational victory, with 91.9 of a maximum 100 points. It was an achievement that no-one managed to top in the ensuing ten years.

On 26 November 1918, William Baume and watchmaker Paul Mercier came together to establish Baume & Mercier. In 1937 withdrew from day-to-day business. Jeweller Constantin de Gorski stepped in to take their place. After the Second World War, high demand brought an upswing in the company’s fortunes. Baume & Mercier concentrated on classic men’s watches, sporty chronographs and ladies’ dress watches. 

Alain Zimmermann (left) in conversation with his watch mentor Georges Kern

Alain Zimmermann (left) in conversation with his watch mentor Georges Kern

In 1965 the Piaget family purchased a majority stake in the company. In 1988, Cristian and Yves Piaget sold 60 per cent of their shares to Piaget Holding S.A. and Baume & Mercier S.A. to Cartier Monde S.A., Paris. In 1993, Piaget and Baume & Mercier came under the ownership of the Vendôme Group, now Richemont. 

Under the aegis of CEO Alain Zimmermann, Baume & Mercier first presented the nostalgic “Clifton” watch line in China in 2012. Its fuss-free aesthetic pleased brand fans in the Middle Kingdom, and shortly after in Europe as well. Following the “Clifton” wristwatch tourbillon presented in 2013 at “Watches & Wonders” in Hong Kong, this year the brand is marking its 185th anniversary with the similarly limited “Clifton” pocket watch with repeater.

The possibility of lending an acoustic dimension to time was something that watchmaker Daniel Quare patented in 1767 in ye olde England. Back then, when readily operable electric light was still a long way off in the future, hearing the sound of time at night was a special kind of comfort, if a costly one. 

The “Clifton 1830”, for whose solid gold case Baume & Mercier has deployed almost 80 grams of pink gold, beats the time on activation of the knob between the “4” and the “5”, to an accuracy of five minutes. 

Baume & Mercier Clifton 1830 pocket watch - rear view

Baume & Mercier Clifton 1830 Pocket Watch - rear view

 As it happens, this form of chiming mechanism dates back to 1710. A low note signals the hour, while the number of five minute intervals elapsed since the last full hour are marked by high and low notes on two gong springs.

Also included is an “all or nothing” safety mechanism, invented by the aforementioned Daniel Quare. It ensures that the chiming mechanism springs into action correctly, or not at all, so that it never tells the wrong time.

For the movement, a modular construction, Baume & Mercier teamed up with Dubois-Dépraz. A specialist in the field, located in the remote Vallée de Joux in Switzerland, combines a reliable repeater mechanism with a large, skeletonised manual-winding movement from the calibre Eta 6498. Its balance wheel oscillates at a stately 2.5 hertz, or just 18,000 vibrations an hour.

The power reserve lasts 46 hours. The opulent case with sapphire crystal front and back measures 50 millimetres, and occupies a width of 14.4 mm in the pocket. In keeping with the occasion, Baume & Mercier are restricting the edition to just 30 numbered pieces.


Read more
10 2015 The Red Bulletin

Next story