Review: Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 10436 (COSC)

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Baume & Mercier caused a stir when they announced that their latest in-house movement, the BM12-1975A Baumatic, would ship in watches costing less than $3,000. How could they do that? Spending time with the Clifton Baumatic Ref. 10436 COSC hasn’t done much to answer that question. It’s an exceptional dress watch, and I’m convinced that it could legitimately sell for twice the asking price of $2,990.

The understated 40-millimeter 10436 has one overarching quality that sets it quite a distance apart from other watches in its price-range: unadulterated class. The 10436 approaches the level of finish and quality you’d find in IWC Portofinos and some dressy offerings from Grand Seiko. Sure, Baume & Mercier cut a couple corners to meet their price point, but it takes considerable fussing to see it and—given the price—to care.

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$2990

Review: Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 10436 (COSC)

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
BM12-1975A (in-house, COSC)
Dial
White (porcelain look-alike)
Lume
n/a
Lens
Domed Sapphire
Strap
Black Crocodile
Water Resistance
50 meters
Dimensions
40 x 46mm
Thickness
10.3mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Push-pull
Warranty
yes
Price
$2990

For example, the high-gloss dial is not porcelain, but it sure does look like it. The way the black text renders against the white dial is especially convincing. I’m fussy about one material imitating another, but wearing the 10436 for days on end has convinced me that there is nothing to fuss about. The dial is creamy, radiant, and classy. I have no idea how they did it.

Seeing the text “5 DAYS – CHRONOMETER” on the dial really ticks a box. It’s the kind of statement that can seem disingenuous with lesser specs, but here it simply sets the 10436 into the high-end category where it belongs. The cross-hairs only accentuate that categorical class, as do the skinny, highly polished applied steel markers. My only gripe with the dial is that the outer track’s numerals are not evenly centered on those markers (compare the ‘05’ to the ‘60’ and you’ll see it). That inconsistency may have been intentional, but it looks off to my eye.

The date window at three o’clock is well proportioned, perfectly positioned, and totally appropriate—maybe even required—on a dress watch. Perhaps the date wheel numerals are a little big for the window, but they’re also quite elegant and highly legible.

The rhodium plated lance style hands match the markers with their long, elegant reach, something I’d liken to the arms of Audrey Hepburn extending an impossible length from inside a Givenchy dress. Though also rhodium, the seconds hand almost always looks black, so it leaps out against the white dial and picks up the black text and strap, pulling the whole look together.

Baume & Mercier achieve the slim 10.3-millimeter thickness both through the movement’s modest dimensions and through what at first appears to be a standard-issue stainless steel dress watch case. Closer examination, however, reveals exceptional brush work on the mid-case, mirror polish on the topside, and a perfect edge between them that makes a sinuous journey down to the tip of the lugs. It’s not exactly an uncommon case, but it is an uncommonly good one. Atop all that is the narrow, polished chamfered bezel and domed sapphire crystal that leave so much room for the dial that the watch appears larger than 40 millimeters across.

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With a lug-to-lug span of 46 millimeters, a very reasonable length, the fit is great on my 7.25-inch wrist. I imagine the 10436 is going to fit a lot of people.

The black alligator strap is uneventfully traditional, though, given how pricey croc can be, it’s a pretty significant strap for Baume & Mercier to have included. Once again, a first glance fails to reveal what’s unique here, and I’ll point you to the blue stitching and embossed branding on the backside, as well as the beefy, signed, polished pin buckle.

I wouldn’t write home about the crown, yet as with so many features on the 10436 it does its job with understated class. I found the crown lacked a definitive click going into position one for date setting. Perhaps more importantly here, the crown is quite big, so it makes powering up this watch to its full 120-hours of reserve about as easy as that can be.

Few watches in this price range are as pretty on the back side as the 10436. The movement is one thing, but the steel surround that houses the sapphire rear window has that same high-end vibe that permeates the dial. Engraving is crystal clear, and the gentle slope of the surround offers another dose of comfort on wrist. Again, nothing ground-breaking here, but the look and feel are on par with watches costing many thousands more.

I rarely get excited upon seeing auto-winding movements, but the level of finish on the Cal. BM12-1974A is way beyond the asking price, and seeing a wholly different set of mechanics—as in, not just another decorated ETA or Sellita unit—is unexpectedly enthralling. The circular decoration on the bridges, the sandblasted and snailed plates, and especially the skeletonized rotor with its Côtes de Genève decoration and precision text engraving, make for a truly sophisticated look. Really great through a loupe, too.

I hope that, like me, you are impressed with all these features, because once I delved into the watch as a whole I came to appreciate the in-house movement (and the price) far more than I did when the Baumatic made headlines earlier this year.

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Inside we’ve got the COSC-certified movement with 21 rubies, trademarked “Powerscape” technology in the escape mechanism and “Twinspir” hairspring, using silicon to both reduce inaccuracies brought on by temperature changes and electromagnetism (a robust 1,500 gauss here, 25x more than ISO 164 specs). I informally checked accuracy over a 24-hour period and the watch was ahead by four seconds, which is spot on for a COSC movement. With 5 days of power reserve, you’ll not have to wind it on Monday morning after wearing a sport watch for the weekend. Baume & Mercier also claims that this movement can go as long as ten years between service intervals, significantly lowering the price of ownership.

As impressive as the movement is, ultimately it’s the watch as a whole that matters, and the Clifton Baumatic 10436 is a thoroughbred dress watch visually and mechanically. I really can’t find fault with it. If there is anything holding the watch back for us horological nerds, it might be the brand itself.

Despite taking root in 1830, Baume & Mercier has not played heavily into today’s vintage craze. Even a quick stroll through their current catalog demonstrates that they pull from the spirit of their past but not specifically from the back catalog (especially when it comes to size). As part of the Richemont Group, Baume & Mercier targets a general audience more likely to buy a watch at the airport or jewelry store than by rooting around the dark corners of watchdom for deals and steals. But I believe, if they chose to, Baume & Mercier could reissue some fantastic back catalog pieces, add some historical narrative and the Cal. BM12-1975A, and start nipping at the heels of Longines and Omega.

However, perhaps the fate of Baume & Mercier is to create new classics. It’s not difficult for me to imagine that this first batch of Clifton Baumatics will, one day, be collectible. I’ll be long gone by then, but perhaps some young dude in the year 2118 will delight in snagging a cherry 10436 from 2018. Maybe that’ll be the very watch on my wrist right now, the same one I’m finding so difficult to relinquish. Baume & Mercier

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At age 7 Allen fell in love with a Timex boy's dive watch his parents gave him, and he's taken comfort in wearing a watch ever since. Allen is especially curious about digital technology having inspired a revival of analog technology, long-lasting handmade goods, and classic fashion. He lives in a one-room schoolhouse in The Hudson Valley with his partner and two orange cats.
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