When the Clifton was introduced by Baume & Mercier’s CEO Alain Zimmermann in Geneva, he introduced it as a watch in the category of affordable luxury. Back then, the Clifton series started below 3000 Euro for the most basic version. Later on, complications (including a tourbillon) were added. Today, we take a look at the Baume & Mercier Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar. A watch that does not exactly belong to the affordable luxury category, but does offer a neat and useful complication.
Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar
Last year, we reviewed the Clifton Complete Calendar, a watch offering day, date, month and moon phase indicators. This Baume & Mercier Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar added, you’ve guessed it already, a chronograph complication. Besides a calendar, a very useful – and popular – complication.
Looking at the dial of this Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar you could already identify the movement that is inside, due to its typical lay-out. Yes, it is based on the ETA/Valjoux 7751 movement. A chronograph and calendar movement with a solid track record. It also offers a 24 hour indicator.
The watch we received from Baume & Mercier for this review is their reference 10280, a two-tone version of the Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar. The 18 carat red gold bezel isn’t very prominent, until you have the watch in sun light or in a room with enough light. You will see that the red gold bezel matches nicely with the dauphin hands and applied hour markers. Interesting to note is that only the bezel is in gold, the rest of the watch is made of stainless steel. Normally, with bi-color watches you’ll find the crown and/or pushers also to be in gold. It is a bit like the Rolex Datejust 16234 and its variations, where the fluted bezel is made of gold where-as the rest is made of stainless steel.
Inspired By Vintage Models
The Clifton series is inspired by Baume & Mercier’s heritage models, as was told to me during its introduction. It isn’t clear which models exactly inspired the Clifton, or that it is a mixture of several models and designs of their 1950s collections. The shape of the case is definitely something that reminds me of those elegant 1950s watches, with those curved lugs, round shapes, dauphin hands and applied hour markers. Also the flat winding crown looks 1950s. It is an era that is loved by many watch collectors, and an era that brought us many great designs from Longines, Omega, IWC, Rolex and so on. The strange thing is that I can name a couple of 1950s watches from those and other brands, but I have to admit that I don’t come across – any – vintage Baume & Mercier models from that period. Looking at some offers on Chrono24, I come across approx 16 Baume & Mercier models from the 1950s. Amongst others, this one, that indeed shows an interesting resemblance of the case shape of the Clifton.
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Not only the shape of the case, also the rectangular pushers and flat crown are interesting design features that we see on the new Baume & Mercier Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar watch. In any case, a very handsome 35mm diameter watch with manual winding movement and two-register chronograph.
However, we are looking at a modern watch here, with a 43mm case and the typical Valjoux 7751 lay-out. Although I understand the fact that Baume & Mercier wants to use those off-the-shelf movements, it also means that there is less room for creativity on the dial. You will see similar dials from other brands, so the only room for them left to play with, are the hands, numerals, indexes and colors on the dial. And yes, Baume & Mercier did a wonderful job at that, given the boundaries they have to work with. However, if the given ‘design parameters’ of the movement wasn’t something they had to take into account, how awesome would it be to have a two register chronograph on a Clifton for example? Or, in case of the complete calendar, a four register lay-out like those old Universal Geneve models? Or something like Baume & Mercier’s own 1950s triple-date watches, based on the Valjoux 72 movement.
Of course, to keep the Baume & Mercier Clifton somewhat in the affordable luxury price category, there are boundaries in what they can do. The use of the Valjoux 7751 isn’t a bad choice, as it delivers all necessary complications and has proven to be very reliable over the years. This movement was based on the chronograph-only version, the famous 7750. While the free winding direction bothers me a bit with these movements, creating a wobble that’s very ‘present’ on the wrist, it is a good performer and one without issues. The list price of 5450 Euro makes me wonder whether the ‘affordable luxury’ tag still is applicable though. For this kind of money, you do get a well built watch with a lot of mechanical complications though. The all stainless steel version (reference 10278) retails for 650 Euro less, which perhaps make it more interesting for those looking for watches up to 5000 Euro. It isn’t the cheapest Valjoux 7751 powered watch around, but there’s more about a watch than its movement of course.
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On the Wrist
The Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar with its 43mm diameter wears very nicely for starters. It has a much more ‘expensive’ appeal than it actually costs. Several people asked me about the watch when I was wearing it. Interesting enough, people that are not specifically watch enthusiasts were surprised by its price point in a positive way, where some fellow enthusiasts / collectors thought it was a bit overpriced. In my opinion, the Baume & Mercier aims at people that just buy a good watch with their Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar. It is not aimed at collectors or die-hard watch fans in my opinion. In that respect, Baume & Mercier indeed is able to offer interesting pieces in the affordable luxury category to those who just want to wear a good and nice looking timepiece.
The watch, due to its shape, wears very comfortably on the wrist and, just as important, it is very easy to read the dial. The hands are nicely polished and give a great contrast with the silver(ed) dial. The case has polished and satin finished surfaces, that give a wonderful contrast. Both the case and dial play very nicely with light. The 18 carat red gold bezel adds a bit of punch to it, but to be honest, I could do without.
To operate the watch there’s not much you can do wrong. Be aware that setting the calendar and moon phases (by crown and the special pusher on the left side of the case) shouldn’t be done between certain times (9:00pm and 3:00am) and you should be fine.
Strap and clasp
Part of the wearing experience are the strap and clasp. Many brands pay too little attention to it, resulting in a lousy looking strap or an uncomfortable one. The alligator strap is very nicely done, not too stiff (many of them are, only to soften a bit after extensive wear) and with beautiful scales and not too padded. Baume & Mercier just got it right. The clasp is easy to use and comfortable on the wrist. As you can see on the image above, the clasp has a combination of polished and brushed surfaces. The Baume & Mercier logo has been engraved in the clasp.
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The Clifton is one of those collections that I followed a bit over the years. I was happy to see that Baume & Mercier came up with it in 2013, for an affordable price. Now that they introduced more variations, I wonder how it performs on the market. In the end, it all has to do with price (besides the fact whether a watch is attractive for the masses, or not). The Clifton is certainly an attractive watch, with clear inspirations from past models. 5450 Euro is quite a bit of money, even for a watch with these complications, but the watch looks good and has a nice finish. The dial is the typical 7751 lay-out, but the applied rose gold colored markers and polished hands are very nicely done.
If you are looking for a good watch for every day wear and want to have a full calendar and chronograph, the Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar is an interesting candidate. Just make sure you feel comfortable with the 43mm diameter case and whether you want to have it in stainless steel or in two-tone. The stainless steel version can also be had with a stainless steel bracelet.
More information via Baume & Mercier on-line.
Robert-Jan Broer, born in 1977, watch collector and author on watches for over a decade. Founder of Fratello Watches in 2004.