If you want a handsome, Swiss-made chronograph around the $5,000 mark, there are a number of great options: the OMEGA Speedmaster, the TAG Heuer Carrera, the Breitling Navitimer. These are iconic watches that have stood the test of time thanks to their association with racing, aviation and space travel during the 1950s and ’60s. For better or for worse, they are safe, obvious choices. But there is something to be said about choosing to go against the grain with a watch that’s a little more obscure. The Baume & Mercier Capeland is one such option.
The Capeland, relaunched in 2011, uses the name of a series of chronographs Baume & Mercier made in the 1990s. Yet while the watch uses the old Capeland name, the design of the new timepiece is loosely inspired by a chronograph Baume & Mercier released in the late 1940s. The New Capeland, though, is not a retread of old designs. While it has some very ’40s cues — for instance its rounded, propellor-like hour and minute hands and numerals that invoke the early mid-century font of a Monopoly board — those are combined seamlessly with modern design conventions, like its large 44mm case.
Even with a substantially thick 14.5mm case, the Capeland is comfortable to wear. This is a result of the case, with its rounded case back and sculpted, curved lugs. The movement inside the case is a La Joux Perret 8120, an automatic chronograph beating at 28,800 vph based on the lauded ETA 7750. The 7750 can trace its roots back to the early ’70s, and has since been used in a number of chronographs from brands like Heuer, Sinn and even OMEGA.
The dial is a busy place, but it’s the watch’s biggest design asset. It’s home to a tachymeter scale, a red telemetric scale, three sub-dials for the chronograph and Arabic numerals for each hour, sans three, six and nine o’clock. Even with all these markings, the interplay is balanced and clean. Baume & Mercier managed to leave enough blank space to make the busy dial work, compared to, say, the Breitling Navitimer’s markings, which nearly fill up its entire dial.
See, the Capeland is all about the little details. Every marking, every curve of the case comes together in a mishmash of vintage and modern design. It’s not an uber-engineered watch or a timepiece with decades of history behind it. It was not worn on the moon, nor is it favored by pilots, nor is it an iconic racing watch worn by the playboy F1 racers of the ’60s and ’70s. It is simply a unique, relatively obscure and meticulously designed watch for the buyer who wants to be different.
Towards the end of high school, I started to discover high-end watches. Little-by-little, I would see things in store windows while strolling through shopping malls or at the watch and jewelry area at Costco. I never went out of my way to look for nice watches, but became intrigued by a few that spoke to me. One of those was a Baume et Mercier Capeland. Back then, the Capeland was a sort of classy and elegant sports watch. There were even a few diver’s versions. The modern case was beefy-looking, and I loved the sword-style hands. I wanted one really bad, but it was a few thousand bucks and way, way out of my financial reach at the time. I never got one of those original Capeland models, but I’ve always remembered them.
A few years later, Baume et Mercier began to change. The brand started to produce solely elegant watches after models like the Capeland, Riviera, and Hampton stopped being part of the collection. Instead, we saw things like the Classima and William Baume ranges. The name of the brand also changed from “Baume et Mercier” to the English “Baume & Mercier,” though the website still bears the older name. We then saw the return of the Hampton collection into something still square but more dressy, and finally a new version of the Capeland.
In the past, we’ve discussed the “new” Baume & Mercier Capeland collection when they debuted in 2011, and then later in 2012 when some new Capeland models were released. During those discussions we’ve mentioned a few obvious things. First, that the current Capeland bears little to no relation to the prior Capeland. Also, that the new Capeland collection is about emulating a look inspired by historic watches as it came out during the height of the vintage watch revival.
It is also worth noting that the Capeland comes in at least two dial styles, with two different movement options, and a range of dial colors. There are also strap and bracelet options. Baume & Mercier is meant to be a more mass appeal brand, so each new model has to be a family with a lot of members. What we have here for review is the 44mm wide Capeland ref. 10068. This is toward the top of the line of the Capeland collection, only matched by a version of this model with a solid 18k rose gold case that is more expensive. It is also worth noting, that the 10068 is about 30-40% more expensive than the base level Capeland models
Baume & Mercier Capeland models have two styles of dial. One, we like to call “old” and the other we like to call “older.” Each is vintage inspired by actual dials from the past. This version has the “older” dial. That means more traditional looking hands and Arabic hour numerals as well as a snailed tachymeter scale and a telemeter scale. Dials like this have been known to exist as far back as the 1910s or 1920s. The other dial style was popularized about one or two decades later. Nevertheless, each of the current Capeland dial versions is what you would call a “vintage-style watch” for sure. And some people get very excited about that.
In black, with a mixture of gold and white markers, we felt that this was a very attractive Capeland model to play with for a while. I can’t help but love gold-toned pomme-style hands on something that feels like a traditional tool. I actually inherited a vintage Gallet watch with a similar dial – so designs like the Capeland 10068 speak to me positively. Legibility is good, but you’ll have to look to the other Capeland dial style if you want luminant on the hands or dial. One issue however, exists whenever you have shiny hands on a black surface: in certain kinds of light, the hands blend in affecting legibility. There are lighter-colored versions of this dial, and Baume & Mercier does make the hands flat which helps, but it is something to be aware of.
The Capeland 10068 comes in the 44mm wide case, which is the only case size available for this dial style. The other dial style is available in either a 44mm wide or 42mm wide case. Also note that this dial style is only available with the (quite lovely) alligator strap (in two shades of brown, or black). The Capeland on the bracelet isn’t that bad though – coming from someone who loves watches on bracelets.
Of course, this “more” retro version of the Capeland arguably has more character. The distinct vintage looks of this model cannot be confused for anything else. The other dial can actually be confused with something more modern-looking. Indeed, even some novice employees at Baume & Mercier thought it was quite modern looking when the new Capeland models debuted in 2011. If you go retro, go full retro, and opt for a dial like this in my opinion.
The classic-style dials are matched to classic-looking cases, only enlarged for today’s tastes. The two size options are both intended for men, and I think work to satisfy most of the target demographic. The all-polished steel cases are nicely made and comfortable with their curved lugs. However, the cases are thick, ranging from over 14mm to 16.5mm thick in this model. That is a thick watch, but it is intended to look large. Part of that has to do with the chronograph movements and domed sapphire crystal.
It is easy to like the retro-styled plunger chronograph pushers and wheel style crown that is wide and relatively flat. It is the type of crown you like to grasp and operate. The case is also water resistant to 50 meters. Baume & Mercier didn’t go with a case-fitted strap. It is true that doing so would go against the vintage theme, but I bet this watch would look great with a fitted strap that results in no gap between the case and the strap.
Through the rear of the watch, you have a view of the mechanical movement through a sapphire crystal exhibition case back window. Most Capeland models have three register chronographs and use the Swiss ETA Valjoux 7753 automatic movement. These models with two chronograph registers use a different, arguably more interesting movement. Inside this model is a Swiss La Loux-Perret caliber 8147-2 automatic. It is very nicely decorated (with blued screws, perlage, and Cotes de Geneve stripes) and while the chronograph is designed to only measure 30 minutes, it does have a flyback complication. The movement further has 42 hours of power reserve (pretty much the same as the 7753).
Lest we forget the inclusion of a date indicator, the smartly-concealed date window is located between 4 and 5 o’clock on a matching black disc. We like the beveled edges of the date window that offer a higher-end look to the overall presentation. This ref. 10068 and other Capeland models are designed to have mainstream appeal, but also give something to dedicated watch lovers seeing something more casual, but with character. These aren’t for everyone, but they are pretty well conceived and do a good job at emulating a look from the past in a modern skin with contemporary materials.