At SIHH 2018 Baume & Mercier debuted the new Clifton Baumatic collection of dress watches that feature a new, exclusive automatic movement known as the caliber BM12-1975A. “Baumatic” is actually the (cute) marketing name for the movement, which is being featured in the Clifton Baumatic collection as a start. Baume & Mercier was justifiably proud of the new Baumatic product launch and there is a lot to discuss about the new watches ranging from the simple and satisfying Clifton Baumatic M0A10298 (white dial) and M0A10399 (black dial) to the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Chronometer M0A10436. For 2018 Baume & Mercier will also offer the Clifton Baumatic with the white dial on a matching steel bracelet in the M0A10400, and also in a two-tone steel and red gold-tone as the reference M0A10401.

The implications of the Baumatic caliber BM12-1975A, as well as the relatively accessible price point of these nicely-made formal watches is the real story here. Baume & Mercier sometimes like to refer to the BM12-1975A as an “in-house movement,” but in reality it is an exclusive movement (“developed in-house”) produced for Baume & Mercier by the Richemont Group-owned Manufacture Horlogere ValFleurier (which we sometimes playfully refer to as “Richemont’s ETA”). The fact that Baume & Mercier now has a watch with a movement it can claim as exclusive isn’t really what is exciting here. What’s more exciting are the performance promises of the BM12-1975A, its size, and the new technical priorities that Richemont seems to have set for many of the movements it produces for its various watch brands.

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

 All images by Ariel Adams

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Baume & Mercier produced one of the best press kits we saw from all of SIHH 2018 for the Clifton Baumatic – designed to discuss the watch and BM12-1975A movement inside of the Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Chronometer. The kit isn’t perfect, but it does an admirable job of really discussing both the performance promises of the new automatic movement as well as some of the special technology inside the Baumatic that makes it different from “standard” base Swiss automatic movements.

Richemont seems to have made an edict across its brands that mechanical movement performance is something it wants to focus on moving forward. At several of our SIHH meetings, we started to hear representatives talking about magnetism resistance, accuracy, and dependability over time from their “in-group made” movements. This would have Richemont catching up a bit to the Swatch Group, Rolex, Patek Philippe, and others who have been increasingly vocal over the last few years about the performance of all or at least some of their modern mechanical movements. While the Clifton Baumatic is not the only Richemont Group product for 2018 to talk about performance standards such as anti-magnetism and accuracy, it is the most affordable and thus, most ambitious of them all.

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Personally, I’m very happy to see brands starting to take performance claims more seriously. Hell, I’m happy they are talking about performance at all. One has to understand some contextual things related to the mechanical watch industry that makes the discussion of performance a bit ironic to begin with. Mechanical watches are (for the most part) all pretty much obsolete. Watch lovers cringe at hearing such statements, but from many perspectives this is true. For example, even if a novel mechanical movement offers double the performance of an existing mechanical movement, even the new and fancy mechanical movement will in all likelihood still not perform as well as an electronic watch movement.

There are those who argue that trying to make a mechanical movement perform better is a Quixotic pursuit. Is that true? From certain perspectives it most certainly is, but it does not take into consideration that despite the fact mechanical watches are outdone by quartz movements in raw timing performance, enthusiasts still prefer mechanical over electronic watches most of the time. Thus, acknowledging the consumer demand power of mechanical luxury watches (and the demands of their consumer buyers), one begins to see the logic and business sense of working to make today’s new mechanical watches more exciting.

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

A deeper way of understanding the new focus on mechanical watch performance in relatively affordable watches is to see it as a hedge against the distraction power of vintage/older watches. For at least a decade now the watch collector universe has been largely fascinated by the world of vintage watches (from various angles). One of these points of focus is that both vintage and modern mechanical watches have similar movements. Even though there are stark performance differences between all manners of movements available over the years, your lay enthusiast consumer simply had no real tools to understand how a mechanical watch from today might perform differently from a similarly complicated mechanical watch from 40 years ago. Thus, consumers would/will often buy less-expensive vintage watches over their modern analogs because they don’t know or understand how their movements perform differently.

Watch brands whose businesses rely on consumers purchasing new products aren’t particularly happy with anything that distracts consumer buying intentions. One way of explaining the new focus on mechanical watch performance across “volume” models such as the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic is to see them as a hedge against consumers feeling that older (e.g. vintage) watches are “just as good.” By using key terms and tangible experiences (such as your watch coming into contact with something magnetic) watch brands today are attempting to give consumers more palpable reasons to invest in a brand new product because it has new technology that can help solve old problems. It is true that a degree of these “old problems are now solved” statements are marketing-based optimism. However, it is equally true that the use of modern materials (for the purposes of watchmaking) such as silicon are indeed helping to make legacy mechanical movements really feel their age. This is a trend that I will continue to explore and report on in the future.

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Let’s get back to the 2018 Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic, namely the “flagship” model that Baume & Mercier is pushing the most. That model is the COSC Chronometer certified version of the Baumatic which is the reference M0A10436. While this watch contains the same caliber BM12.1975A (aka BM12-1975A) as the other Baumatic watches, the movements in the M0A10436 are all COSC Chronometer certified. The dial also has “Chronometer” written on it, as well as a “crosshair” style motif on the dial (which is a legacy design element in some watches that generally suggests “precision”). No actual performance difference exists between the movements in the Chronometer and non-Chronometer version of the Baumatic as far as we know. Rather, the Chronometer models have had their movements sent to COSC for certification, which adds cost to the production, and is more about having the assurance of performance (as opposed to the mere promise of it). Baume & Mercier wanted to offer the Chronometer model as a mere $200 upgrade over the non-COSC Chronometer certified models for watch consumers who like the idea (or the crosshair dial).

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Now let’s dive into the BM12.1975A movement, which makes a Baumatic… a Baumatic. To simplify the goals Baume & Mercier wanted to achieve in the movement, they articulated four simple terms; “anti-magnetism, autonomy, accuracy, and durability.” That means that the movements are designed to resist daily magnetic fields, require less regular winding, remain more accurate more often, and require less servicing. The top level performance promises of the Baumatic BM12.1975A are impressive. Relatively thin (for this much power reserve) the movement has 5 days of power reserve and operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph). I’m not clear on the precise movement thickness, but the Baumatic case is 10.3mm thick. That’s not super thin, but it wears in a slim manner and the movement is clearly not as thick as other 5 day automatics out there. Rich use of silicon parts is at the heart of most of the Baumatic’s performance promises. Baume & Mercier decided to use silicon for the movement’s hairspring, anchor, and escapement (escape wheel). The hairspring is actually pretty interesting and uses what Richemont calls “TWINSPIR technology.”

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

This is the first time I’ve heard of TWINSPIR, and it’s actually pretty cool, being developed by Richemont Research & Innovation. The term means “twin spiral,” and refers to the fact that the hairspring spiral is actually produced from two silicon spirals that are “bound” by a “silicon dioxide layer.” The outcome of having two hairsprings in one is (I believe) increased error correction. Given that the TWINSPIR hairspring has independent silicon “cores,” each performs differently but in very close proximity. If one of the cores deviates in some way, then the other core doesn’t necessarily deviate in the same way, and thus there is a form of error correction. Principles based on this same error-correction theme have been seen in watchmaking for hundreds of years – and when applied correctly can indeed improve performance over time. Baume & Mercier’s specific performance promises of the TWINSPIR hairspring (along with the rest of the regulation system assembly) are improved accuracy over time, reduced sensitivity to magnetism, and greater resistance to small shocks.

POWERSCAPE is the name used for the combination of the anchor and escape wheel that are each produced from silicon in the BM12.1975A movement. Silicon construction for both parts is uncommon with watches at this price, and the performance promises here are related to the ones above, as well as a decrease in or elimination of lubrication in the movement. This is because of the lower friction between the parts, which helps increase the efficiency of mainspring power and accuracy over time. Richemont specifically points out that POWERSCAPE increases mainspring energy use efficiency by 30{2ad7386ae00e305f29f1275ac3a1c09cb2be462ced7fd30efa8c40e80bdbdbfa}.

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Until recently it was almost unheard of for watch brands to state rate result (accuracy) promises in new watches. That is thankfully slowly changing thanks to efforts by both Omega and Rolex. Baume & Mercier claim -4/+6 seconds per day of accuracy in the BM12.1975A automatic movement. That is the same as the minimum accuracy standards to be COSC Chronometer certified. Regarding durability, Baume & Mercier doesn’t really talk too much about specific technical enhancements, but simply say that the combined features and components inside the Baumatic watches means that servicing intervals can be five years apart for the movements.

Visible through the sapphire caseback of the Clifton Baumatic, the BM12.1795A automatic is attractive although unassuming. In design and performance the movement is very modern, but also non-pretentious. The promise of “everyday anti-magnetism” is a good idea of the type of performance that is actually useful. Baume & Mercier didn’t design the Baumatic to be wildly anti-magnetic, but rather to be entirely unaffected by daily magnetic fields you might encounter from magnets on bags to those in airport security. Baume & Mercier promises the BM12.1975A is resistant to 1,500 Gauss, which greatly reduces the concern someone might have that their watch will permanently or temporarily be affected by magnetic fields.

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Minus its integration into the Clifton Baumatic watch collection, I feel that movements like the BM12.1975A have a big future at Richemont brands. If the group can successfully communicate to consumers that a new generation of mechanical watch movements offers some existing and desirable performance advantages over movements that are even just 5-10 years old, then they’ve very much helped their mid-term sales efforts. I say mid-term because the consumer education process will likely take longer than a short-term outlook, and because in the long-term it will be difficult to predict what elements or features will be most valuable to consumers in a luxury mechanical timepiece.

Baume & Mercier’s case design and construction are of a very high-quality even though most watch lovers don’t always consider those attributes when thinking of the brand. The Clifton Baumatic watches are pretty, although decidedly conservative and non-offensive in their presentation. In steel or in steel with a gold-toned bezel and crown, the 40mm wide cases are comfortable and nicely finished with a polished bezel, lugs, and caseback, with a brushed middle section. Over the dial is a domed and AR-coated sapphire crystal, and the cases are water-resistant to 50m. Case thickness (again) is 10.3mm. The dials feature applied hour markers, time with hours, minutes, and seconds, as well as a tasteful date window. The cross hair motif on the Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Chronometer model is an acquired taste, but the volume models come without that particular design element.

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Watch Hands-On & Why This New Mechanical Movement Matters Hands-On

For those who prefer a steel bracelet in lieu of the black/brown/blue alligator strap, they have one option with the white-dialed Clifton Baumatic that comes on a pleasant five-link style bracelet. I happen to like that model quite a bit. Assuming you like the Clifton’s retro-dressy theme, my only suggested design change for Baume & Mercier would be to color the hands so that they contrast a bit more with the dial. For the Chronometer they do this with the seconds hand which is a dark gray – and it looks quite good. I feel that making the hands a darker color on the light-dialed models will further help legibility.

The aBlogtoWatch team felt strongly enough about the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic to put it on the list of our top 10 best watches of SIHH 2018. As such, I am sure the collection will not only sell well, but also be supplemented with further models in the near future. Having said that, I don’t think Baume & Mercier’s mission is done. They have a good-performing modern automatic mechanical movement in a watch designed to look like something from yesterday. I think Baume & Mercier can push themselves to come up with contemporary (yet still elegant) watches designed to fit movements such as the BM12-1975A. In my opinion, for Baume & Mercier and ValFleurier to succeed, it simply isn’t enough to put a modern movement in legacy-style watch. Bring on the modern watch collections to properly house all these cool modern movements.

For 2018 the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic watch collection will (once again) be available in five different styles. Those are the reference Clifton Baumatic M0A10398 (aka 10398) white dial and M0A10399 (aka 10399) black dial in steel, which have a retail price of $2,590 USD each. The Clifton Baumatic in steel on the matching bracelet reference M0A10400 (aka 10400) as well as the Clifton Baumatic 5 Days Chronometer M0A10436 (aka 10436) each have a retail price of $2,790 USD. The Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic in two tone steel and red gold M0A10401 (aka 10401) has a retail price of $3,290 USDbaume-et-mercier.com