10 Years, 10 Watchmakers: Introducing The MR PORTER Anniversary Collection

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10 Years, 10 Watchmakers: Introducing The MR PORTER Anniversary Collection

Words by Mr Chris Hall | Photography by Mr Matthieu Lavanchy | Styling by Ms Sophie Hardcastle

10 December 2021

This year, MR PORTER is celebrating its 10th anniversary. To mark this milestone, we turned to 10 of our favourite watchmakers. Partly because, where the passage of time is concerned, there’s no one better and partly because we have long extolled the virtues of a watch as the perfect way to commemorate life’s major achievements.

Some of these esteemed brands are almost as fresh-faced as ourselves. Ressence marked its 10th birthday just last year, while Bell & Ross and Roger Dubuis are children of the 1990s. Others, such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier and IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN have us well and truly outpaced.

What’s remarkable, when you think about it, is how naturally this centuries-old industry has flourished in the digital world. In 2011, the word “blockchain” was first added to our dictionaries and I’ll wager few of us had any clue what it meant. This year, we’re introducing an incomparable range of restored Vacheron Constantin vintage watches, each with a blockchain-enabled certificate of authenticity. Talk about the meeting of analogue and digital worlds.

Below is a guide to the 10 fantastic collaborative projects that together make up the MR PORTER Anniversary Collection. In their variety, creativity and exclusivity, we feel they are a fitting tribute to the business MR PORTER has become over the past decade and, if we may say so ourselves, show just how deeply the horological world has embraced online retail.

Such an undertaking would have been unthinkable a mere five years ago. Each project is different. We have bespoke creations, limited-edition variations on iconic designs, exclusive access to sold-out and rare models and, as hinted at above, a true world first from Vacheron Constantin as MR PORTER becomes the first partner to collaborate on the brand’s Les Collectionneurs programme, in which only the most sought-after vintage pieces, in the best condition, are lovingly and sympathetically restored.

As we near the end of 2021, another year of uncertainty around the world, this is our proud attempt to finish on a high.

Baume & Mercier launched its Clifton Baumatic in 2018 and it immediately won a place in our hearts. Here was a watch focused on giving people what really mattered to them: a five-day power reserve, superior magnetic resistance and chronometer levels of accuracy, all in a design that drew on classic influences from the 1950s. In many ways, it was a new template for the everyday watch.

For MR PORTER’s 10th anniversary, Baume & Mercier has kept everything that makes the Clifton Baumatic such a bankable option and introduced some bespoke alterations especially for us. Produced in a limited run of just 30, available only on MR PORTER, this Baumatic has been decked out in the hit colour of 2021. It has a forest-green seconds hand and matching textile strap. It’s a subtle change that gives the previously dressy design more of a go-anywhere feel, even though it retains its 40mm steel case and glossy white dial. That dial retains the crosshair decoration that marks it out as a chronometer and the oversized rhodium-plated hour markers.

The Baumatic’s caseback ring is laser-engraved to mark MR PORTER’s 10th anniversary and bears the detail “One out of 30”. Through the sapphire window you can see the calibre BM13-1975A, discreetly finished with Côtes de Genève polishing and a scalloped motif around its edge.

Bell & Ross’ modernist chronograph has, so far, been quite restrained in its execution. Dials have been limited to black, blue and white, with stainless steel the only case metal. In honour of our 10-year milestone, the brand has dusted its newest reference with a little glamour, resulting in a BR05 Chrono that’s ready to party. Limited to 10 pieces, each individually numbered, it introduces a new dial colour that in the cold light of day appears anthracite grey, but from some angles and under softer light has richer, almost maroon tones.

That’s an impression helped by the warmth of the many rose-gold accents. The edging to the lume-filled hour markers and hands is rose gold, as are the oversized 6 and 12. Most noticeably, the television-shaped chronograph subdials have been given a rose-gold inlay, which adds to the sense of depth and texture as well as lending the watch a racier, sportier character. We’re this close to calling it the BR05 John Player Special.

Texturally, the grained subdials, sun-ray backdrop, recessed chronograph chapter rings and applied numerals make it the most dramatic iteration in the range so far. And that’s before you see its real party piece: an embossed “10th” on the three o’clock subdial that is also picked out in blue SuperLuminova, in contrast to the green lume of the hands and hour markers.

Limited-edition Cartier watches don’t come along all that often. Platinum-cased designs that hark right back to the origins of the wristwatch far less. As part of our Anniversary Collection, we are therefore pretty chuffed to have one of these precious sets to offer. You’ll recognise it as a Cartier Santos-Dumont straightaway, with its riveted case, rounded square corners and delicate crown. The basic shape has changed little since Cartier created a wrist-worn watch for Brazilian aviator Mr Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1904. But almost immediately, the special touches stand out.

Unlike almost every Cartier watch ever made, this has Arabic instead of Roman numerals and they are set against a fabulously engine-turned dial in a distinctive shade of blue. The crown, normally set with a blue sapphire cabochon, is set with a ruby and the solid back of the watch is engraved with a depiction of Santos-Dumont’s airship.

Produced as a limited edition of 100, it comes with a set of 18-carat white-gold cufflinks, set with hawk-eye semi-precious stones, and is presented in a custom-made box. Each watch is individually numbered from one to 100. Appropriately enough for MR PORTER’s 10th anniversary, we have number 10.

It has been a big year for the Reverso, which marked its 90th anniversary with a host of new models, from this simple but effective green number to a range of show-stopping high complications. The brand has also taken over an enormous venue in Paris for an immersive exhibition into the famous watch’s history.

MR PORTER may be 80 years behind the iconic reversible watch, but working together with Jaeger-LeCoultre, we have created a series of five limited-edition Reverso models that pay tribute to its international appeal and MR PORTER’s global reach. In the past 10 years, region-specific Reversos have become hugely sought-after, identifiable by a signature colour – green for London, for example, or the ultra-rare yellow Thailand edition.

This year we have gone one step further. Each of the five is identifiable by a colour on its Casa Fagliano strap, rather than its dial, but also by a detailed engraving of that city’s most recognisable building. The five editions, chosen for their status as the world’s capitals of style, are New York (the Statue of Liberty), London (the Elizabeth Tower, aka Big Ben, and the Palace of Westminster), Paris (the Eiffel Tower), Milan (the Duomo) and Hong Kong (the Central District skyline, centred on the IFC 2 tower). Each watch is based on the Reverso Classic and produced in a run of 10 pieces.

There have been several notable developments in watch style over the past decade, but one of the most widespread and influential has been the reinterpretation of 1960s and 1970s dive watches as versatile, capable and, above all, colourful choices for everyday wear. Often, watchmaking’s most expressive side is reserved for high-end creations, but these watches bring a sense of fun to more real-world budgets.

Among this cohort, Oris’ Diver’s Sixty-Five has emerged as one of the most beloved. For our Anniversary Collection edition, we selected a green dial, bezel and strap (it being 2021, we had to acknowledge the colour of the moment) and a stainless-steel case with a unique gunmetal-grey finish.

Most significantly, this reference is only the second Diver’s Sixty-Five to use Oris’ in-house Calibre 400 movement, a five-day automatic with improved magnetic resistance, better than COSC levels of daily accuracy and a 10-year warranty and service interval. The calf leather strap is embossed with the MR PORTER logotype. A total of 200 pieces will be produced, each of which is individually numbered.

Few watch brands arouse the passionate following that Panerai can induce. There is even a dedicated term for the most die-hard devotees of its watches, the Paneristi. The fervent sense of loyalty is almost unmatched and exclusive limited editions sell out faster than you can say, “trademark oversized crown guard mechanism”.

This particular Submersible, notable for – and named after – the marine blue of its ceramic bezel, is one such sold-out reference. Only 500 were made and for MR PORTER’s Anniversary Collection, we have got our hands on the last 10 pieces to leave Panerai’s Neuchâtel manufacture. Once these are gone, that’s it.

Cased in 42mm of stainless steel, the watch comes on black rubber with an optional fabric strap included, making it a flexible choice. Panerai made its name in the 1990s and 2000s with oversized designs, but the move to more modest case sizes in recent years has opened up a wider audience. This piece is equally at home on male or female wrists.

Which superlatives remain to heap upon Ressence? As we mentioned above, the Belgian watchmaker is barely older than MR PORTER, yet in its 11 years of business has brought an extraordinary amount of invention to market. Watches with revolving dials and no hands, watches filled with oil, watches that fuse digital and mechanical technology. The only thing you can guarantee you won’t get from Ressence is a plain old watch.

The Type 1 Slim is the most pared back, simple execution of the brand’s philosophy, showcasing the revelatory ROCS system, which displays time with a set of discs that rotate around each other. Since slimming down in 2019, the Type 1 lives in a super sleek brushed titanium case that weighs less than 70g.

For our anniversary celebrations, Ressence has given the watch a green dial and matching rubber strap, an interesting nod to functional, military-spec hardware on this most avant-garde design. It also, perhaps, pays a sly tribute to Ressence’s own recent 10th anniversary celebration, which was marked by a series of limited-edition green watches.

With each of our collaborative designs, the prospect of how a watchmaker will interpret one of its creations to incorporate a MR PORTER element is always a fascinating one. For Roger Dubuis, whose watches rely on a highly individual aesthetic to begin with, the answer came from an unexpected source. Rather than a dial colour or caseback engraving (spoiler alert – all Roger Dubuis watches are openworked to some degree), the team at Roger Dubuis drew inspiration from MR PORTER’s in-house designs, our illustrations and artwork.

No, we’re not talking about the pixelated strap, although this is an exclusive detail in its own right, but the cross-hatched texture used on the watch’s star-shaped skeleton bridges. The already jagged spines of the bridges have been given an even more stencilled look with razor-thin red edging and carefully added black hatching to give the impression of a hand-drawn illustration.

And in a subtle nod to the year of our anniversary, the 10 o’clock hour marker is shaded out. Only one watch will be made in this reference.

How about this for something different? For MR PORTER’s 10th anniversary, we are presenting 10 fantastic, mechanically restored vintage watches from Vacheron Constantin. Restored under the brand’s Les Collectionneurs programme – the first time it has worked with an external partner – the watches represent the very best of Vacheron Constantin from the 1940s to the 1990s, covering the full spectrum of designs from classic triple calendars to avant-garde dress watches.

There are perpetual calendars and there are Batman lugs. Each of these watches is an extraordinary example of a rare or interesting reference in Vacheron Constantin’s history and has been given a sympathetic mechanical restoration (dials and hands are left untouched, cases are given only the most minor of polishes where absolutely necessary) and re-warrantied for two years.

To showcase this collection within a collection, we chose a suitably sought-after watch, the Chronomètre Royal in steel from 1985. A hitherto under-appreciated piece, this unorthodox design has recently become harder and harder to find as collectors realise its appeal. Fewer than 200 were made, so we are extremely proud to have one in such fantastic condition. The same alluring combination of rarity and quality is present throughout the set of 10. Click here to read our full story on the collection and Vacheron Constantin’s restoration process.

If you are experiencing a profound sense of déjà vu, don’t worry. There’s nothing amiss. We did indeed unveil this watch in May, in something of a vanguard manoeuvre as our 10th anniversary celebrations began. You can check out our full story from earlier in the year here. Now it is joined by the rest of the horological cohort to form this Anniversary Collection.

In case you missed it first time round, here’s what you need to know. Our first collaboration with IWC had to come in the form of a Pilot’s watch – far and away the most creatively rich line in the collection, not to mention one of the most recognisable worldwide. The Pilot’s Chronograph was the template for our design, but the end result takes this formidable tool watch into new territory. Cased in bronze with a black dial, gold-toned numerals and hands with glossy white lume, it is equal parts practical and sartorial, with a warmth and textural variety not before seen on the Pilot’s Chrono. Only 110 will be produced.