Both SIHH and Baselworld were a bit of mixed bag in 2016. Many of the big box brands played it very safe, too safe if you ask me. Thankfully the shows weren’t without their respective highlight reels. Baselworld brought us the stunning Arnold & Son Nebula, TAG Heuer’s reissue of the Monza, a meteorite-dialed Omega Speedmaster, and of course the ceramic-bezel Daytona that Rolex enthusiasts have been wanting for ages. SIHH introduced the new Vacheron Constantin Overseas, alongside the dressier Reverso Tribute Duo and the Drive de Cartier and not to mention De Bethune’s meteorite-cased Dream Watch 5. But the best watch I found this year from the trade shows is the Laurent Ferrier Galet Square Boréal.
The challenge with any of these shows is that it’s easy to allow initial perspectives to become permanent. First impressions are a dangerous weapon in the watch industry, and that first lust from a hands-on experience isn’t always going to stick around outside of Switzerland. I wasn’t on the ground at SIHH, but as soon as the news hit the web I knew this was the watch I needed to see. At the time, I didn’t see anything from the brand hands on, but I knew of the company’s reputation for remarkable craftsmanship and finishing.
On paper, the green-lumed Boréal ticked every box for me. My love of vintage Heuer means I’m always a sucker for a cushion-style case. My small wrists place my case size preferences between 40mm and 43mm (the Boréal case is 41mm). Finally, I love a watch that challenges convention. Initial coverage from SIHH proved that the Boréal confused many journalists. Some chose to refer to it as a sports watch, an observation that still makes no sense to me. The impression I took away from my experience was of a versatile watch that pairs vintage-inspired case construction and dial layout with modern design details like its bold application of lume and a contemporary case size. Throughout the year, the Galet Square Boréal has remained at the top of my list as I waited for a bit of hands-on time.
Finally, my opportunity arrived roughly six months after the product reveal in Genève. Given Laurent Ferrier’s limited production and the fact that the Boréal is already sold out, I was not surprised that a full week with the watch wasn’t an option. The watch made its way to me stateside and was then picked up four days later by Laurent Ferrier CEO Vanessa Monestel.
As soon as the piece arrived and landed on my wrist, I was sold. Its semi-matte dial is stealthy depending on lighting conditions. In certain lighting and from certain angles, every detail other than the luminous markers and hands remains hidden. When light strikes the right way, the texture of its sub-dial stands out prominently, and the minute ring and logo suddenly become easy to read. Flipped over to the business end, Laurent Ferrier never disappoints so there are little surprises here. A gold micro-rotor and Côtes de Genève stripes provide impressive visuals, but the best part is the technology, like the silicon escapement, and a healthy three-day power reserve.
On the wrist, the svelte Boréal is just about perfect. At 41mm in diameter by 11.1mm thick, the case proportions wear perfectly on a smaller wrist. The piece is perfect for double duty with a suit or when worn more casually. The Boréal’s polished case gives it a properly dressy charm for more formal occasions, and yet it can be worn as a casual watch because of its large dimensions and strap pairing. The Boréal spent about three out of four of its days with me hopping between olive green camouflage and other striped NATO straps. The night before I had to give the Galet Square Boréal back, I attended an NYC RedBarCrew gathering, and it seems many fellow enthusiasts and Laurent Ferrier CEO, Vanessa Monestel were equally fond of my outside-the-box pairing. I don’t know that the beige-lumed variant of the Boréal would do quite as well with out-of-the-box pairings, but the green version works well with complementary colors.
The end result of my not-quite-week on the wrist is simple. I will own this watch one day. The only problems being that there precious few examples of the Boréal in existence, and at a retail of CHF 35,000, it’ll just take me a little longer to get there.