Baume & Mercier introduced the Clifton Club at SIHH 2017. Recently Baume & Mercier the Netherlands offered me the opportunity to wear this watch for a week and share my thoughts on it in our Ace Magazine.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton debuted in 2013 as a line of classic mechanical watches with 1950's inspired designs. At SIHH 2017 the collection was enriched with the Clifton Club, a sportier & more contemporary watch available as either a classic 3-hander with rotating bezel or a Shelby co-branded Chronograph.
At introduction the Clifton Club didn't leave much of an impression with me. Why? The sheer number of new watches at SIHH can be overwhelming and the time spent handling them is short -if any at all. It's done in small meeting rooms with poor lighting accompanied by heavy discussions over budgets and targets, making it easy to be instantly stunned by the outrageous, yet harder to appreciate the less outspoken and fine details. Those same details might get lost in press images too, especially when they're CGI renderings instead of actual photographs. In short, I welcomed the idea of wearing one of the new Clifton Club's for a bit to see if it would change my lukewarm first impression.
It's Not Mine - a new series
This is the first article in a new series. I'll try to keep honest and to the point. All expressed views are strictly my own. I'll go over the basics first, after which I will explain what I like and what I don't.
The Clifton Club in this article is the reference MOA10338. It features a stainless steel case which measures 42mm across at a height of 10.3mm. The bezel is unidirectional with 120 clicks and this particular reference has a sand-blasted stainless steel insert. The black dial has three levels; a raised minute track with orange sides, the hour track featuring riveted markers filled with green C1 SuperLuminova, and a center portion which holds the dial text. It is powered by the self-winding caliber SW200 by Sellita. Both crown and case back are of the screw-in type and the latter is engraved with a Clifton Club insignia. The strap (21mm) is calfskin. The top side is black and features a sailcloth-like pattern, while the side and back are orange. It is fitted with a push-button operated butterfly folding clasp. The Clifton Club Automatic is rated water resistant up to 100 meters.
What I Like
I'm not sure what it is, but IMHO the press images do not do the Clifton Club justice, making it feel a bit generic and dull. In real life the watch this is not the case. The different finishes on the case are well-executed, with a sharp division between the brushed and polished bits. The wide bevel on the sides is a sight. At 3:00 it culminates in the crown protectors - not unlike the Omega Seamaster 300m, yet different in detail and execution. While the case is similar to that of its dressier siblings, the rotating bezel makes it feel sportier and more aggressive. It's classic yet modern, and for sure not retro. With the overflow of vintage-inspired watches, I think that's a good thing.
The diameter feels about right for an elegant sports watch like this, while the short lugs make for a comfortable fit. The bezel action feels solid with little to no play. The dial is well executed, with enough depth and detail to keep things interesting, without going overboard. The hands are funky without being funny and readability is excellent. The Sellita movement is not the most interesting, but at this price point it's a solid choice. It'll likely be easy and affordable to have serviced in the future too.
What I'd Change
The Clifton Club looks, feels and operates like a dive watch - so I'd like a proper 200-300 meter water resistance. I know other brands (e.g. Oris with the Divers 65) do this too, but when a watch like my NOMOS Club 701 has a 100 meter water resistance while being hand-wound with no screw-down crown, I feel a little bit more for a sports watch like this is not asking too much. Smaller notes: the bezel looks great and clicks well, but can be hard to grip at times, and 21mm lug width is a pain if you like to change straps.
Than there's the brand name, image, and heritage. Many of today's popular sports watches have a long & rich history filled with tales about them being used on perilous and exciting expeditions and voyages on land, sea, air and space. Not with the Baume & Mercier Clifton. Instead, the brand focuses heavily on a smooth, teak deck, Hilfiger'esque vibe, seemingly avoiding the machismo and heroism that's prevalent in sports watch marketing. The promotional video has a couple of sophisticated, suited up young men riding their long boards, using the terrace of what I can only presume is their parents chateau as a driving range, and playing polo on the lawn of said chateau ... To put it mildly, the lifestyle they're promoting is very particular and not for everyone.
Having worn the watch for a week, I have grown quite fond of it. It's an easy wearing watch. It's distinct but not over the top, classic but most certainly not retro, and restraint without being boring.
At today's EUR 1.950 incl. VAT (EUR 1.610 excl. VAT) it's a solid competitor for watches like the Longines Legend Diver or one of Oris' many dive watches.