The first ‘adult luxury watch’ that I desired was a Baume et Mercier. I was in my early-mid teens, and can’t remember where or when I first saw a photo of it, but I do remember that I saw it ‘in the metal’ only the once – in a boutique window somewhere (forgive me, I cannot remember what city it was) in Switzerland during a family holiday. In recent years I’ve tried to try and find the model online, but have come across the usual brick wall. It was stainless steel, on a bracelet, and characterised by large horizontal bands in two slightly different tones
There were no Baume et Mercier dealers in my hometown of Canberra at the time, and I had no idea about the brand’s long history in Australia (originally as Frères Baume, or Baume Brothers). So lengthy, in fact, that in 2012 they are having what they’ve called the ‘160 Year Australia Anniversary Retrospective on Tour’ exhibition to celebrate their presence here. The exhibition features a dozen historical pieces and is being shown at a number of retailers in Sydney and Melbourne. It was at Gregory Jewellers that I went to view the watches, and I’d like to thank them for allowing me to take some photographs.
Unfortunately, the exhibition didn’t feature my teenage favourite, but it did have some rather lovely vintage pieces that got me thinking about delving into the world of vintage Baume et Mercier. As befitting the brand’s current beach/ seaside approach marketing wise, there was an outdoorsy type of feel to this small but interesting display.
Without further ado, I present to you the Baume et Mercier ‘Museum Collection’ anniversary exhibition. The broad descriptions provided are those given with each exhibit, but I have added a few notes in some cases. Personally, I found myself most drawn to the chronos.
Starting from the left is the oldest item in the exhibition – a beautifully elegant 18k pocket watch with a key wound mechanical movement from 1850.
A steel and pink gold square watch from 1940 is next. It contains a hand-wound mechanical movement.
Another sqaure watch from 1940 and also hand-wound, this is a column wheel chronograph with a pink gold case and black dial.
The first watch in this cabinet is the Marquise, from 1950. It is 18k yellow gold and features the BM 375 hand-wound movement. Launched post World War II, it became one of Baume et Mercier’s most successful watches; a jewellery watch with a bangle-styled bracelet that became not just their best selling post-war ladies’ model but which also remained a very popular model until the early 1960s.
In the photo below, on the left is a pink gold hand-wound mechanical chronograph from 1950 and on the right, also from 1950, a stainless steel hand-wound mechanical chronograph with triple date moophase.
The final watch in this cabinet is a wondefully classic looking pink gold hand-wound mechanical chronograph from 1955. The Baume et Mercier chronographs of this style provided the inspiration for the Capeland collection.
The final cabinet covers the most recent history of Baume et Mercier and has a focus on women’s watches. It starts in 1966 with a delicate and elegant diamond set white gold hand-wound watch with white gold ‘Milinais’ strap.
The final watch in the exhibition is a pink gold Linea from 1998 with a quartz movement. The Linea is a historical model dating back to 1950 which provided the inspiration for the modern Linea collection.
The exhibition will remain in Sydney during September. It is at Gregory’s Bondi Junction until 16 September, followed by Shum’s (24-29 September), after which it will travel down to Melbourne, where the watches will be on display at Monards (3-13 October), Hardy Brothers Chadstone (15-20 October), and ending at Hardy Brothers Melbourne (22-27 October).
For some photos about other interesting vintage Baume et Mercier watches that have previously gone on display in Australia, see this Sydney Tarts blog post.