So far, the beautiful Baume & Mercier Clifton Retrograde Date Automatic, the new watch in the growing Clifton collection of affordable dress watches that was presented back in January at SIHH 2014 show, looks like the most advanced member of the family. Although the mechanism that powers it is just a usual ETA 2892-2 ebauche with a complication module sitting atop of it, the watch still looks very elegant and refined and, if you are not obsessed with technical features, could become a very nice companion if you plan to wear it with business suit.
As you can possibly see on the photo below (well, it is probably not a real photo, but some vector graphics, but that’s okay; still, you must approach this sort of images with caution, but more on that later), the new watch follows the same path that was set by previous members of the collection. It still looks very organic, if you don’t mind the adjective, with its gently flowing lines and natural curves.
However, there is something to it that makes me remember Japanese luxury cars delivered during the last seven years or so. Its size seems to be exaggerated to match dimensions of ‘sporty’ watches, which visually contradicts the layout of its dial with its gentle, elegant Arabic numerals and tastefully shaped hands.
This is my personal opinion, however, and convincing you that this new piece doesn’t conform to the idea of a sporty dress watch is not the main purpose of this brief review.
Mechanism & Case
Beginning to write this article, I first wrote that the ETA 2892-2 movement that powers this timepiece, despite all of its advantages over competition (like, say, higher reliability and better accuracy), is also the main problem of this watch.
However, putting it more correctly, the main problem of this Clifton Retrograde Date is not a particularly successful combination of an oversized body (43 millimeters in diameter is by no means small for a dress watch since it takes a great deal of space on your wrist and, being 12.5 mm high, may not always interact with your shirt’s cuffs in the nicest way) and a pretty standard ETA caliber, that’s why I decided to combine the two sections of the review into one, they are so intertwined.
Said to be paired with the well-known Soprod 9094 module, the movement got its functionality dramatically expanded and adds to the usual three-hand layout a nice calendar display with a retrograde date indicator and a power reserve gauge that makes using the watch less of a hassle, which may be especially true for those who prefer to constantly rotate their collection of timekeepers and don’t want to wake up late one morning with the watch he or she planned to wear three hours behind and the second hand standing dead.
Still, as usual, it must be noted that a complication modules, while saving you great amounts of money when you first buy a time measuring accessory, also makes the watch a tad bulkier and the mechanism itself is often more difficult (and also more expensive) to repair.
Since the mechanism is fairly small (the ETA 2892-2 has a diameter of less than 26 millimeters), the rear sapphire crystal is, too, relatively tiny, while the polished stainless steel bezel of the case back cover is really thick making the large case look VERY massive when looked at from behind.
Of course, this is purely a matter of personal taste, but when the front bezel is at least three times thinner than the rear, there is clearly something wrong with the timekeeper’s design.
Now, about these rendered images. While the pictures give you a fairly good idea of how the watch looks in a light box, they are not as good as to tell you about the way its finish behaves when it comes to ambient lighting.
The first of all, the gold-plated hands and numerals are nicely polished and, by reflecting lots of light, look a lot more contrast over the silver-toned surface of the dial with its nice sunburst finish. The second thing is that the machine-brushed surfaces are seriously exaggerated on these pics: in real life they are a lot more refined, and this can be good and bad in different lighting scenarios. Sometimes, the timekeeper’s textures look rich and very, well, expensive. Sometimes, they make the device look dull.
Well, for all things practical, the aforementioned (minor, from where I stand) deficiencies are the only problem of the gadget. Its dial looks well-balanced and large enough for all three sub-dials (a day of week indicator at 9 hours, a retrograde date display at 3 and a power reserve indicator at 6 o’clock, all of them fitted with blued steel pointers), large Art-deco-styled Arabic numerals and even a black minute track staying together in perfect harmony, almost like the proverbial ebony and ivory keys on a piano keyboard.
The data, which is represented there, is easy to read and, thanks to the brand using different colors and textures for the primary and secondary indicator, can be grasped with just a passing glance regardless of whether you want to read current time or just forgot which day of month it is (although, truth be told, at certain positions of the hour and minute hands you may have to make an educated guess when it comes to the retrograde calendar: the numerals may be completely covered by the parts).
Although there are numerous examples of dress watching sporting luminous elements on their dials, Baume & Mercier still doesn’t want to go this way: the watch comes with no lume whatsoever. Well, it doesn’t look like a rear problem for me, but if you are used to checking time at night, bear this in mind.
Just don’t forget to try it before ordering: the Clifton Retrograde Date is indeed huge for its styling.
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 3/5
Baume & Mercier Clifton Retrograde Date Automatic watch specification
Movement: Automatic, ETA 2892-2 with Soprod 9094 module, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 30
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 42 hours
Movement decoration: Geneva stripes on the oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, retrograde date, power reserve, day of week
Case material: Stainless steel
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 43.00 mm
Case height: 12.50 mm
Lug width: No data
Numerals: Arabic, gold-plated
Hour markers: Gold-plated
Hands: Gold-plated and blued
Water resistance: 50 meters
Strap: Brown leather strap
Case back: Sapphire
Photos: Baume & Mercier