Introducing The Baume & Mercier Riviera: A Watch For Blue Skies And Sunny Shores
The clue really is in the name. If you were looking for a watch that spoke of warmer climes, azure skies and breezy summer living, then Baume & Mercier has served it up with the return of a one-time mainstay of its collections: the Riviera.
A bracelet-bound sports-luxe ticker in the classic mould, the Riviera’s defining feature is its 12-sided bezel, something that’s replicated in the winding crown, and gives the watch a kind of spirited eccentricity – a design with plenty of edge, you might say. That was certainly the case in the 1970s when it was first conceived, and it remains true in its latest format: a sleek, sprightly and versatile reimagining of an almost 50-year-old blueprint. Launched in a variety of iterations, including a couple of high-spec versions kitted out with Baume & Mercier’s powerful Baumatic movement, it’s a statement from the brand that the Riviera is back, and here to stay.
With it is a new wave-form pattern that ripples across the dial – you can have it in blue, black or silver – in contrast to the crisp baton hour markers, geometric contours and contrasting finishes of the case. According to the brand, the pattern represents the convergence of the mountains and the sea: a reinforcement of the watch’s airy, outdoorsy attitude.
Indeed, it’s the desire for an all-purpose timepiece – the sort of thing you can wear as easily in the gym, on a run or up a mountain as you can to a restaurant – that’s driving today’s fashion for watches that, like the Riviera, take their cues from the original sports-luxe models of the 1970s.
Back then, Switzerland’s high-end makers were turning their attention to a new generation of clientele who wanted something unmistakably luxurious but more robust and full-blooded than the dainty executive timepieces of previous eras. The two most famous examples remain Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak from 1972 and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus from 1976. Baume & Mercier’s Riviera was sandwiched right between these, appearing for the first time in 1973.
The name might have suggested a distinctly laid-back approach to life, but the brand’s powers-that-be were evidently keen to prove their watch was fit for situations tougher than poolside frolics at the Hotel Byblos. The story goes, they had one strapped to the wheel of a BMW race car during the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at the end of which it was found still to be in perfect working order.
In fact, whatever punishment it endured, the original Riviera would itself be considered dainty by today’s standards. Today’s version, measuring 42mm in diameter, would dwarf those early models, but it looks absolutely on point today. Crucially, the watch carries forward one of cornerstone features of the 1970s sports-luxe genre: a bracelet that integrates seamlessly with the geometry of the case itself. However, there’s a noteworthy twist today: Baume & Mercier is offering the watch with a rubber strap as well, and a quick-release system allows you to easily switch these in and out to suit your mood, outfit or activity.
The standard Riviera models are powered by a sturdy Swiss automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve. If you opt for the top-tier Baumatic version, though, that increases to a hefty 120 hours, meaning you can leave it off your wrist for the full working week and you won’t need to reset it come the weekend. You’ll also get an intriguing view of the movement itself since the Baumatic versions, in either stainless steel or steel-coated in black ADLC, come with see-through dials in smoky blue or grey respectively.
What you’re looking at offers more technical bang for buck than just about any piece of watchmaking out there. Besides that huge power reserve, it includes elevated anti-magnetism, chronometer accuracy of -4/+6 seconds a day and high durability. Just the thing, in fact, that should put in a good showing if you were to strap it to the wheel of a racing car. But maybe just wear the thing instead – it’s a watch to be enjoyed, especially as the summer approaches.