Back to basics with three-hand watches

SIHH brands bring it back to basics with traditional three-hand watches, writes Alan Seymour.

As consumer tastes move on from complications for the sake of complications and with the value-for-money trend gaining ever more momentum in the watch industry, simple three hand watches are having something of a renaissance.
This year, Cartier rebooted an old favorite: the Santos. Tracing its roots back in 1904 and the watch made for namesake aviator Alberto Santos Dumont, the contemporary Santos was launched in 1978 and quickly became a beloved status symbol for the moneyed social-elite (Gordon Gekko even wore one in 1987’s Wall Street). At first glance the new Santos de Cartier doesn’t look too different from its predecessors, however Cartier’s proprietary 1847 MC automatic movement, first seen in 2015’s Clé, can now be found under the hood and the bezel has been tweaked with lines that flow into the bracelet/strap, integrating the two aesthetically. Two new quick-change systems can also be found on the bracelet/strap — QuickSwitch allows the wearer to seamlessly swap between a strap or bracelet and SmartLink lets the wearer add or remove bracelet links without tools.
Sticking to square-cased watches, SIHH newcomer Hermés showed an updated version of its charming Carré H. Conceived by French designer Marc Berthier and initially offered as a limited edition in 2010, this year’s Carré H builds on the original with an updated case, in-house movement and new design for the hands and dial. Available in either gray or black, the new dials have swathes of contrasting textured surfaces — from opaline guillouché to graining and sunburst — and an exclusive font for the numeric hour markers. The case retains the “squircle” shape of the 2010 watch but now measures 38x38mm and employs stainless-steel construction (the 2010 model was 1.5mm smaller and in titanium). The shape-within-a-shape design of circles in a square — albeit with rounded edges — is a nice touch, as is the second hand’s dash of color.
What with eponymous founder Peter leaving for new pastures, it’s been an interesting period for Speake-Marin. But despite team changes, the watches are still going strong. In terms of three-handers there is the One&Two Academic, essentially a closed dial version of 2017’s One&Two Openworked, driven using the Caliber SMA03, it retains the Openwork’s unique 1:30-situated small seconds sub-dial. With the attractive cobalt coloring and delightful interplay between polished and matte surfaces the Academic’s solid dial is certainly a welcome addition to the One&Two.

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