Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual
The Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual takes inspiration from one of the brand’s former watches dating back to 1956. The Swiss brand has carefully distilled elements of this vintage model, creating a timepiece relevant for today’s sartorially astute gentleman. The watch is endowed with a chronograph with bi-compax layout, large date and an annual calendar. And yet, despite this impressive specification, the watch remains attractively priced.
This detailed review of the Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual includes images, specification details and pricing.
Every couple of years, I visit an array of car showrooms, keen to procure a shiny replacement car. My wife is usually in attendance, eager to rein in my profligate tendencies. When presented with a list of options, I readily tick boxes. The problem with adding features to the specification of a car is that the asking price invariably increases. The same rule can be applied to watches.
Setting aside case materials and gems, the most affordable watches have a tendency to display merely hours and minutes. The addition of complications inevitably inflates the asking price.
However, in recent years I have noticed that the name ‘Carl F Bucherer‘ has become a byword for value. The brand makes high-end timepieces, infused with exquisite detailing and becoming aesthetics. Nevertheless, despite the preponderance of virtues, the Swiss firm chooses to tempt prospective purchasers with notably keen prices.
At Baselworld, the prestigious watch brand unveiled a new model, the Heritage BiCompax Annual. This watch is endowed with a chronograph, annual calendar and large date display. This compendium of complications would normally lead to a high ticket price, however, the steel case version is offered to would-be buyers for the modest sum of CHF 6,900. This is a price one could expect to pay for a good quality chronograph without an annual calendar and sans large date.
The Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual is available in two variants, a steel case model (CHF 6,900) and a bi-metallic option featuring 18-carat rose gold in combination with stainless steel (CHF 10,500). While both watches are marketed as ‘Heritage’ models, the steel version looks decidedly modern when contrasted with its bi-metallic sibling. Moreover, the steel is paired with a black, embossed rubber strap, heightening the perception of modernity.
While the topography of the dials and the shape of the cases are identical, both watches have a distinct character all of their own. Personally, I would find it difficult to reject one version in preference for the other as they both exhibit notable style and a high quotient of elegance. Perhaps the price differential will help some buyers with the decision making process.
The steel version of the Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual is supplied with a silver toned sunray dial, while the bi-metallic option comes with a rose and champagne hued dial epidermis. Each dial employs syringe-style hands to proclaim the hours and minutes. Carl F Bucherer has employed Arabic numerals to denote the hours, except where the registers assume a dominant role at 3 and 9 o’clock. Interestingly, the typeface used for the indexes is quite modern when viewed in isolation, however, the overall composition of the bi-metallic model remains retro.
As regular readers of ESCAPEMENT can attest, I have repeatedly voiced my preference for bi-compax chronographs. This is because there is something very agreeable about the symmetry conferred with two registers positioned side by side. As its name implies, the Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual subscribes to this design. Each register employs crisp markings and numerals, presented on snailed surfaces. Where the registers on the bi-metallic model seemingly melt into the surrounding dial plane, those on the steel model are presented in a bold shade of black.
Two apertures reside beneath noon. They reveal two discs each displaying white numerals on a black background. A large date display is significantly more complex than a simple date, typically positioned at 3 or 4 o’clock. The large date requires the movement to orchestrate two discs which work in unison in order to impart the prevailing date. Sometimes the two date discs are presented at noticeably different heights, however, the Lucerne-based firm has judged matters to perfection, leading the observer to assume that both elements of the large format date share the same plane. A black border frames the large date display, augmenting readability.
The current month is Positioned between 4 and 5 o’clock. This provides a clue to another desirable complication, an annual calendar. With a simple calendar watch, the wearer has to manually advance the date to ‘1’ for those months containing only 30 days. An annual calendar has the mechanical intelligence to identify those months featuring 30 days and those containing 31 days. By having this mechanical intellect, the date jumps to ‘1’, as applicable, with the exception of the date change at the beginning of March which still necessitates manual correction. For purposes of completeness, the date on a perpetual calendar does not necessitate adjustment except in the years; 2100, 2200, 2300 etc.
Chronographs are often associated with the measurement of speed. The Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual features a tachymeter scale encircling the periphery of the dial. Where an object covers a known distance, the chronograph function can be used to ascertain the speed of said object e.g. a car covering 1 kilometre.
Carl F Bucherer looked to its back catalogue prior to designing the Heritage BiCompax Annual. A model harking back to 1956, sporting elongated chronograph push pieces, provided a wonderful source of inspiration for this latest timepiece. At the time the watch would have been considered contemporary, courtesy of its sporty aesthetics. Measuring 34mm in diameter, the scale of the watch was on-trend in 1956.
The Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual of 2019 is a significantly larger watch, measuring 41mm. There seems a ‘fashion’ among some watch journalists to wax lyrical about watches with a narrow waist of less than 40mm. Call me a contrarian, but I personally prefer watches a tad larger. The reason for my predilection for watches with case dimensions of 41mm and more, is they occupy a fair proportion of my wrist without feeling cumbersome. Furthermore, and more pertinently, a larger watch usually has a larger dial, improving legibility. The Heritage BiCompax Annual indulges my predilections and, to my eyes, looks superb.
While both versions share the same case design, the addition of gold components changes the character of the Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual. The bi-metallic model appears more luxurious and I suspect its allure will not fade with the onset of years. By comparison, the all-steel version may date owing to the rubber strap, however, this could be easily remedied by fitting a black leather strap. Moreover, panda dials, as per the all-steel version, have been around for many years and their profuse eye-appeal remains undiminished. A strength of the Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual is that it does not pander to fashion, thereby proffering lasting appeal.
The case is beautifully detailed. The bezel and push pieces gleam resplendently, while the lugs and caseband are satin finished. The bevelled edge of the lugs is highly polished, providing a gleaming contradistinction with the adjacent satin finished surfaces. Despite the affordability of this watch, the Swiss firm has not stinted on sumptuous touches.
The Lucerne-based brand has chosen to fit a ‘glass box’ or ‘double-domed’ sapphire crystal to the Heritage BiCompax Annual. This detail not only heightens the sense of nostalgia but allows light to flood the dial plane, enhancing read-off.
Unlike many period watches, the Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual is fitted with an exhibition caseback, indulging modern tastes. Personally, I agree with the Swiss firm’s decision. Whenever I have purchased a luxury watch, I have always enjoyed seeing the movement.
While Carl F Bucherer is synonymous with the city of Lucerne, its watches are made in a modern facility in Lengnau, just north of Zürich. I have toured this production facility and witnessed an impressive degree of competence. Indeed, the company is a Manufacture, making its own movements.
However, in this instance, the Swiss company has chosen to endow the Heritage BiCompax Annual with an ETA movement in combination with a Dubois Dépraz module. The benefit of taking this approach is that it allows Carl F Bucherer to deliver two impressively specified watches at very keen prices.
Discussions of price should not negate the virtue of using ETA, a company synonymous with reliability, and Dubois Dépraz, a firm renowned for making high quality modules. The movement, the CFB 1972 caliber, is embellished with gold engraved text, perlage and snailed decoration on the ratchet wheel. The oscillating weight is openworked and incorporates the CFB logo. The movement finishing looks a tad industrial and does not share the same exalted execution found on the brand’s Manufacture Caliber CFB A1001, but this concession is to be expected at this price point.
The CFB 1972 caliber contains 47 jewels and the power reserve is capable of delivering 42 hours of autonomous operation.
Throughout this feature, I have made reference to ‘value’ and ‘price’. These may seem unusual words to use when discussing a luxury watch, however, the Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual stands out from the crowd in terms of what it offers. Quite simply, this watch delivers much for comparatively little.
Discussions of price may lead some to assume that there is a ‘dumbing down’ of standards. However, close examination of the watch, save for the movement finishing, shows no signs of cost cutting. Indeed, the case execution would befit a watch costing substantially more. In addition, the dials are eminently refined and stand testament to the Maison’s ability to procure high quality components.
In terms of which version to choose, it is easy to argue in favour of both watches as they both exhibit unique qualities. The bi-metallic reference is imbued with a sense of luxury and timelessness. Furthermore, it provides the perfect accompaniment to formal attire. On the other hand, the steel version feels sportier and more contemporary, making it perfect for daily wear. The price differential may provide the key point of differentiation but, then again, walking away from that gorgeous rose and champagne dial would be difficult. Personally, I remain torn between both options.
While Carl F Bucherer’s watch facility may be located in Lengnau, its head office is based in Lucerne. This city has been home for the company since 1888 and has provided a picturesque environment which has positively influenced its impressive products. In recent years, the brand has been ‘on a roll’, crafting some incredible watches equipped with in-house movements. However, by sourcing a movement and a module externally, the Swiss firm has delivered an impressive combination of complications in a notably handsome form for a very attractive price. I see little reason to argue with this philosophy.
- Model: Carl F Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual
- Reference: 00.10803.07.42.01 (bi-metallic); 00.10803.08.12.01 (steel)
- Case: Stainless steel / 18K rose gold or stainless steel; diameter 41mm; height 14.05mm; water resistance 3 ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; chronograph; large date; annual calendar
- Movement: CFB 1972 caliber; automatic movement; 47 jewels; power reserve = 42 hours
- Strap: Calfskin strap in cognac brown or embossed black rubber
- Price – CHF 10,500 (bi-metallic), CHF 6,900 (steel) – (RRP as at 1.5.2019)
- Limited Edition: Two versions – 888 pieces each