Under new CEO Alain Zimmermann, Baume & Mercier is going through a transformation, refreshing their offerings and repositioning themselves in the marketplace.  They have no aspirations to compete with the other haute horlogerie brands in the Richemont stable, such as Cartier, A. Lange & Sohne or Vacheron Constantin. Instead, they want to be viewed as your first entry into the luxury watch market.

Established in 1830, Baume & Mercier at one time made their own movements. Now they make no claims to being a manufacturer. They went back to a production method called établissage, which is essentially sourcing components from suppliers, including the movements, and then assembling them into a completed watch. Watch geeks usually prefer the status of a manufactured movement, but the honor of that comes with a higher price tag because it’s extremely expensive to not only develop a movement but then to also build a factory to manufacture it; you’re talking millions of dollars. And, if you consider the work of URWERK and MB&F with the HM3 Jwlrymachine and the final editions of the HM2, they aren’t manufacturing their own movements either and they make some pretty spectacular watches.

For the overriding theme of the collection this year, Baume & Mercier chose Seaside Living by the Hamptons. In this image they wish to convey a warm, intimate feel of quality and affordability. They hope their watches will be considered as gifts for life’s milestones, such as a birthday, anniversary or job promotion. Advertising campaigns don’t usually affect my opinions about a brand or a watch, except perhaps to make me turn in the other direction if it’s really bad. In this case, I think Baume & Mercier re-imagined a wonderful atmosphere to deliver their message.

In a modern sized 42mm stainless steel case, the Automatic Jumping Hour presents an elegant and proportioned face decorated with black numerals against a barleycorn guilloche dial. The jump hour window tucks nicely into the off centered minutes dial, while the seconds counter intersects in a balanced inverted figure eight. Inside ticks a Dubois Depraz movement embellished with Geneva Waves and an oscillating weight with the brand’s PHI symbol, adopted in 1964 and which has been considered the “golden section” representing perfect proportions since ancient times.While Baume & Mercier isn’t a company I normally turn to, the models this year made me take a closer look and have a deeper appreciation for what the company does. The watches are divided into four different collections: Linea, Capeland, Classima and Hampton. I was particularly taken with the Classima Automatic Jumping Hour, model 10039. As you may know I have a predilection for jumping hour watches. All watches in the Classima line take inspiration from a thin and elegant white gold model from 1965.

I love the style of this watch. For my petite wrists, it might be too large. In a smaller size, even up to 40mm, I’d snap it up.

The Automatic Jumping Hour, which will be launched in Fall 2011, comes in a limited edition of 500 pieces. For approximately 5K, it a great value, well representing Baume & Mercier’s new direction.

Key characteristics: Automatic. Jumping Hour. Silvered dial. Steel case. Black alligator strap.
Size: 42 mm
Movement: Automatic (Dubois Depraz 14400), movement adorned with “Côtes de Genève” décor
Function / date: Jumping hour
Case: Steel, sapphire crystal case back
Strap:  Black alligator
Buckle:  Adjustable triple folding
Dial:  Silvered, “Grain d’orge” guilloché décor, black arabic numerals, riveted dots and indexes
Water-resistance:  30 m
Limited & Numbered edition:  500 units
Retail price: ~5K