Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Riviera watch, Baume & Mercier unveils the Riviera Azur 300m, available with a smoky blue and a grey sapphire dial decorated with a wave pattern, at this year’s Watches and Wonders. Water-resistant to 30 ATM it is inspired by the first Riviera diver’s watch released in 1981. In order to calculate diving times, the 42mm stainless steel watch features a unidirectional rotating bezel in polished and sun-satin steel with luminescent indexes. A blue or black lacquered treatment marks the gradation of the first fifteen minutes.
As is typical for the Riviera, the dials are partly open-worked to allow a glimpse into its inner workings, including the date mechanism. The bold hour and minute hands are partially coated with beige or grey SuperLuminova for best readability under water and at night. They are controlled by the beautifully finished, self-winding Baumatic movement, which offers a five-day power reserve, a daily precision of -4 s / +6 s, and a magnetic resistance up to 1,500 Gauss. To demonstrate the reliability of its manufacture movements, Baume & Mercier now offers an eight-year warranty for any model equipped with a Baumatic caliber.
The Baume & Mercier Riviera Azur 300m is available on a a steel or rubber strap that can be quickly exchanged without tools thanks to the brand’s “Fast Strap” interchangeability system. The price had not yet been specified at the time of publication.
My relationship with Baume & Mercier watches goes back to the early days of my interest in timepieces. It was in the late 1990s that I recall seeing beautiful watches like the Capeland at jewelry stores and always admiring the way they blended Old-World design with contemporary interest. One of the Baume & Mercier collections from back then was the Riviera, which has returned recently in a slew of three-hand, as well as chronograph, models. Today, I review the Baume & Mercier Riviera Automatic Chronograph by looking at two references: the 10623 with a blue dial on a matching strap, and the 10624 with a black dial on a matching steel bracelet.
Some context — Baume & Mercier is in a transitional mode and is one of the brands in the Richemont Group. Indeed, the brand is smaller today and less active than in the past, but if you talk to the people at Baume & Mercier today, they will tell you that they are in the midst of rebuilding and rediscovering the brand. To be honest, I’ve never really quite understood why Richemont struggled with Baume & Mercier given that the products were well-designed, well-priced, and well-made. What Baume & Mercier didn’t have is much of a marketing personality, and thus demand was tepid amongst the mainstream. This occurred primarily as a result of Baume & Mercier no longer being able to rely on some traditional retail distribution channels and not finding a groove in the new Internet-first timepiece sales economy. Nevertheless, I’ve always rooted for Baume & Mercier and found a large assortment of its new watches both well-conceived and fairly priced. Let’s see how the new Riviera Chronograph watches play into the mold of the Baume & Mercier watches I’ve very much come to enjoy.
Note that Baume & Mercier does have some in-house-made movements, but not chronographs. The Baumatic movements are really slick and mostly found in Baume & Mercier Clifton products. So in these watches, we have Swiss Made ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movements that operate at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. The day/date calendar and 12-hour chronograph make up the complications on the dial, and the overall visage of the watch is marked by the Riviera’s angular 12-sided geometric bezel design.
Baume & Mercier calls this strong, sporty case look “assertive,” and I agree. This is a bold, youthful watch with large proportions but a shape and character that is supposed to still be classy. Baume & Mercier did a very nice job of taking the previous Riviera watches and making them a bit larger and more modern but also keeping a true-to-original sense of character and wearability. From a shape perspective and build quality, this is the classic Baume & Mercier that I love, but not everyone will like the larger size and aggressive stance. The steel case is 43mm-wide without the crown or pushers and is 14.1mm-thick. The lug-to-lug distance is about 52mm. That doesn’t sound super-large on paper, but given the wide lugs and the overall boldness of the dial, the Riviera Automatic Chronograph does wear on the large size for those sensitive about that sort of consideration. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters without a screw-down crown, and over the dial is a flat, AR-coated sapphire crystal. Another crystal is fixed to the rear of the watch to offer a view of the nicely decorated Valjoux 7750 automatic movement inside.