Grand Finale: Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic

Baume & Mercier’s Clifton Baumatic is the first watch powered by the brand’s in-house movement with a five-day power reserve, chronometer precision, magnetic protection and extended service intervals – all at an affordable price. We put it to our test.

When you look at automatic Caliber BM12-1975A that powers the Clifton Baumatic, the first thing you notice is the spring that secures the vibrating balance wheel, shaped like the Greek letter “phi”. Baume & Mercier has used this letter of the Greek alphabet to symbolize the brand since 1964, more than 130 years after its founding in 1830. Baume & Mercier sees the golden ratio, which is symbolized by phi, as a match between an innovative watch mechanism and affordability as embodied by the Baumatic.

From the start, the phi symbol marked the design concept for the in-house mechanical movement that Baume & Mercier had been planning for many years. But only with the increase in capacity provided by movement manufacturer Val Fleurier (founded in 2005) and the establishment of the Richemont Research and Innovation Center (which was integrated in the innovation hub Microcity Neuchatel in 2017), were the prerequisites met that allowed the company to create a high-performance watch movement at a competitive price.

For this movement, four quality criteria were placed center stage: excellent accuracy in different positions and over an extended period of time (i.e., a long power reserve), magnetic resistance for everyday use and durability. When viewing the movement through the Baumatic’s screw-down sapphire caseback, you see the balance wheel and the compact bridges that cover a majority of the caliber, giving it a sturdy and solid impression. But the 4-Hz vibrating balance wheel doesn’t fully reveal the amazing innovations in the new BM12-1975A movement.

The hairspring and escapement (lever and escape wheel) are hardly visible to the naked eye. Every component is made of silicon, the first combination of this kind developed in the Richemont group. The escapement components produced using the so-called Powerscape technology have a complex geometry that used genetic algorithms in their development. The new, optimized escapement results in less friction loss and an improved transfer of torque, which increases the power reserve of the caliber by more than 30 percent over other standard movements.

An additional one-third increase in performance comes from the hairspring, which is equipped with Twinspir technology. Its composite structure is made of two silicon layers set at a 45-degree angle and an intermediate silicon layer that plays an important role in temperature compensation. This hairspring is also three times lighter than a conventional hairspring, corrosion resistant and less sensitive to impacts, vibration and magnetic fields.

In a series of repeated tests, in which we subjected the Baumatic to magnetic fields of about 1,000 gauss for extended periods of time, we saw that its rate varied during the tests and the amplitudes fell. When these results were extrapolated, the result was a loss of about 1 minute over the course of a day. But once the watch was removed from the magnetic field, it quickly returned to its original rate, with no need for demagnetization.

With this magnetic field resistance, the Baumatic can resist the magnetic fields we come in contact with every day, such as magnetic purse and bag fasteners, cellphone and tablet cases, loudspeakers and other such devices. It is many times higher than the anti-magnetic standards specified for watches and provides more comfort than a soft-iron case. Baume & Mercier’s goal is to achieve magnetic field resistance that is relevant for everyday use.

The movement’s silicon hairspring is attached to a newly designed balance wheel with variable inertia that is adjusted with four weights. Both the technology and the adjustment allow the caliber to adhere to the chronometer level of accuracy. It showed remarkable consistency between the individual positions as well as over its long running time of five days. The amplitudes fell gradually, but never below the critical level of 200 degrees. The rate difference between the individual positions was never more than 5 seconds and the watch showed a remarkable average rate, even on the fifth day. The watch was stopped at 120 hours.

An advantage of the long and reliable power reserve is naturally that the Baumatic can be set aside over a long weekend with confidence, knowing it will need no resetting or manual rewinding. Once it’s back on the wrist, the oscillating weight powers the dual self-winding mechanism – also a new design from Richemont, which will benefit other brands in the group such as IWC in its new in-house movement series 69000.

Only a single barrel is needed for the entire five-day power reserve, powered either by the skeletonized wolfram rotor of the automatic mechanism or via the very smoothly operating crown. This contributes to another third in the increased performance. Its dimensions were optimized during the design process to ensure that the number of conventional coils did not need to be increased. The mainspring is made of the high-tech material Nivaflex Plus.

The fact that Baume & Mercier can extend the service intervals for the Clifton Baumatic is due in part to three Richemont synthesized oils and a lubricant from the aviation industry. The manufacturer’s laboratory reports simulation tests of more than 10 years of wear. Even the high-quality French alligator strap will not survive daily use for this long, and a quick release system makes it simple to replace a worn strap. Small pins release the spring bars between the lugs to easily put on a new strap or bracelet. For different thicknesses and pins, there are two sets of holes in the lugs, which slope downward for a comfortable fit on the wrist. The pronged buckle on the strap is well suited to the overall unpretentious look of the Clifton Baumatic.

 

The polished and brushed-finish surfaces on the case add to the dignified impression. A domed and anti-glare sapphire crystal seals the top, beneath which it is easy to read the time – despite an array of facets on the applied markers and lancet-shaped hands – but only during the daylight hours. There is no luminous coating on the gleaming white dial and its porcelain-like finish. The relatively large date display at 3 o’clock is easy to see. The chronometer-certified version of the Clifton Baumatic features a delicate cross-hair design on the dial that appears to highlight the excellent precision of this new timepiece.

It is available in several versions, with and without chronometer certification (and then without the cross-hair design and chronometer imprint on the dial, and costing $240 less). Good value and a modern movement place the Clifton Baumatic in the range of attractive options for younger buyers who have an eye on the future. Functionality is the priority here, with a generous dose of tradition. Clearly, the Greek letter phi no longer has exclusive rights to symbolize antiquity.