Hands-On Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar Review
When Baume & Mercier’s CEO Alain Zimmerman introduced the new Clifton collection as “affordable luxury” to us at the SIHH in 2013, I was happy to learn that some brands still understood the importance of creating affordable timepieces. The Clifton collection started at approximately CHF 2500 Swiss Francs but due to the annual price increases and the CHF/Euro “disconnect” earlier this year, the Clifton collection now starts at € 2800 Euro for the gents’ models.
As expected, Baume & Mercier quickly created a number of Clifton models with (and without) complications. This review is about the Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar that I had on my wrist for a couple of weeks.
Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar Ref. 10213
In 2013 we covered the – then – Clifton flagship model, the ref. M0A10060 (you can read it here). However, the main focus at the time were the more affordable Clifton models that had this new design with clear influences of watches from the 1950s. Next to the time-only models, Baume & Mercier also created a number of variations; Power Reserve indicator, chronograph, GMT and this moon phase model. The Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar comes in three flavors today: the silver dialed reference 10055, the sunburst blue dial 10057 and this grey brown reference 10213 that is not even on the official Baume & Mercier website at the time of writing. It was introduced earlier this year at the SIHH and will be shown to the public during the Watches & Wonders show as well.
Clifton Complete Calendar Dial
Let’s start with the dial of the Clifton. Obviously, when buying a watch with a calendar and moon phases indicator, the dial is one of the most important aspects of the watch. The sunburst dial is simply gorgeous on the Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar. The hands and hour markers – a combination of Arabic numerals and arrow shaped indexes – are in gold color. Somehow I have a weak spot for double names (no pun intended) on a dial and that’s mainly because it just looks so good. Just below the Baume & Mercier wording there are two apertures for the day and month. The date is being indicated by a central hand and uses a small red check as a tip to make sure you will not mistake it for the seconds hand. The gilt dauphin hands are nicely finished and relatively long. The minute indicator really stretches out to the end of the dial and even the hour hand is long and easily tips the hour indexes. Below the center pinion there is the moon phases indicator and the word ‘Automatic’. Just under the minute track on the dial, the days are being indicated in white printing (with the exception of ’31’ which is in red).
Although the other versions (silver and blue sunburst) of the Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar are great-looking as well, this version is my personal preference. The blue sunburst version also lacks the gilt hands and has silver colored hands instead.
The dial is very readable and, despite all the information that can be read, not cluttered. A job well done by the designers at Baume & Mercier. Dauphin hands like this do have one downside though, they do not have luminous (like Super-LumiNova) material applied. While I can do without this myself, I know that many of you are fond of having luminous hands that will allow you to read the time under low-light conditions. Because the Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar is clearly a dress watch, I’d say that it isn’t really necessary. If it is going to be your only timepiece, I suggest you think about the absence of lumed hands and markers for a minute before you make a decision.
Case and strap
The round stainless steel case of the Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar measures 43mm in diameter, which is relatively large for a dress watch in my opinion. The thickness is 12.3mm. The watch has a beautifully domed sapphire crystal on the front and a sapphire crystal fitted to the caseback to allow you to look at the movement (more later).
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar is very comfortable on the wrist. The elegant and curved lugs make it an easy watch to wear and gives a comfortable feel on the wrist. The thickness of the watch is quite modest for a calendar watch but certainly not to be considered thin. This Clifton surely has some presence on your wrist, especially when it has a formidable size.
Baume & Mercier gave this Clifton a beautiful satin brushed finish on the caseband and a thick polished facet from lug to lug. Besides the signed crown, there are 4 correctors located in the caseband of this Clifton; two on each side.
Setting the time is done via the crown. However, to correct the day, date, month and moon phase, you will need to use the correctors. Never use the correctors between 3pm and 1am, this might result in damaging the movement and jamming the correctors. To set the moon phase, you will need to push the lower left corrector with the supplied tool as long as needed to get the full Moon displayed in the aperture. From there, press the corrector as many times as days have passed since the last full Moon. So it is of importance that you have a calendar at hand (there are plenty of websites that will give you this information as well) when setting the moonphase. The other calendar functions are easier to operate of course.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar comes on a beautiful brown alligator strap with rounded ends (21mm between the lugs). Therefore, they perfectly fit the round shaped Clifton case and don’t leave a very big gap between the strap and the case. Baume & Mercier also throws in a signed folding buckle. The buckle has a nice matte finish on the part with the Baume & Mercier logo, while the sides have a high polished finish.
The caseback shows the caliber BM11900 movement, based on the Dubois Dépraz 9000 caliber. What I do not like is that the movement is relatively small compared to the 43mm case. A long time ago, I saw Zenith doing the same for some models and it just looks a bit awkward in my opinion. For me personally, I wouldn’t mind a closed caseback for relatively standard movements, as I’ve written here many times. It leaves room for a nice engraving or bas-relief piece of artwork. However, I can also imagine that you want to have a glance at the inner workings of your watch once in a while. The rather wide steel part of the caseback does leave some room for a bit of information of course. Brand and model name are there as well as the serial number and an extra number (65718) which seems to be an internal reference number or a case number. There is some space left at the opposite of the crown-side, where a personal engraving can be added.
Caliber BM11900 Movement
While I am at it, a few words on the movement as well. As written above, the caliber BM11900 in this Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar is based on the caliber 9000 from Dubois Dépraz. Dubois Dépraz is a manufacturer of movements and especially add-on modules. They mainly use ETA movements as a basis but can also be found on other calibers. For the base movement, Dubois Dépraz used the Sellita SW300 movement. This movement has a power reserve of 42 hours and a diameter of 25.6mm.
Many watch manufacturers use Dubois Dépraz as a supplier for complications, even brands that are considered true manufacturers (like Audemars Piguet). Our friends over at aBlogtoWatch did an interesting visit report on this movement supplier.
Price and Verdict
Reviewing the Baume & Mercier Clifton was high on my wish list as I’ve been interested in this “affordable luxury” range from the Geneva manufacture. Now I finally found an opportunity to get one, be it the more complicated Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar, and I am not disappointed. The watch does have that breeze of the 1950s but is not your grandfather’s 34mm watch (nothing wrong with that though). It is a modern interpretation of a 1950s timepiece (Baume & Mercier claims it was based on one of their watches, but in my honest opinion a lot of watches had similar design elements) but crafted with modern technology and up to modern standards when it comes to size, sapphire crystal, transparent caseback and so on. I love the look and feel of the Clifton collection and especially this Complete Calendar model. The only thing that bothered me a bit is the small display in the caseback. It is completely understandable as the movement only measures a 25.6mm and the case is 43mm, but it somehow does look a bit odd to me. Nevertheless, the beautiful grey brown sunburst dial makes up for that: especially with the combination of the dial color and the gilt hands. Add a sleek case design with nicely curved lugs and a beautiful finish and there is little that can go wrong.
This reference 10213 Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar has a retail price of € 4700 Euro (including VAT). Whether this is still “affordable luxury” I leave up to you, but personally I think it is surely at the higher end of that definition. The Baume & Mercier Classima collection has a friendlier price tag and meets the definition a bit better. That said, a watch with a full calendar is never cheap and the finish of the case, dial, strap and buckle on this Clifton did impress me.
Competitors with calendar watches can be found from Longines (this Master Collection Moonphase model for example) but also in their own Richemont stable, like the similar priced Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Quantième Complet Vasco Da Gama Special Edition. However, like with many things, it comes down to style preferences. The Clifton aims at the person who prefers his timepiece to be a bit 1950s when it comes to design.
More information can be found on Baume & Mercier on-line.