Baltic Bicompax 003 Salmon: from transition to passion and from passion to creation9 October 2023
We encounter with increasing frequency through articles, social media or crowdfunding campaigns a new panorama of proposals, characterised by elements of originality and innovation (especially in the search for stylistic codes and technical solutions). These realities, now widespread internationally, are to all intents and purposes a segment of the current watchmaking market and are known as “micro brands”.
What is a Micro Brand and what are the aspects that characterise it?
It is not possible to find a single definition that encompasses the structure, characteristics and nuances of each ‘micro brand’. However, in a general sense, we could say that sensitivity and passion drive small groups of enthusiasts towards the idea of creating watches capable of satisfying a precise stylistic desire and bridging the gap, not only economic, left by the big watchmaking brands.
FROM PASSION TO CREATION, THE BALTIC STORY
Prominent among the many examples of success in the world of micro brands is the case of Baltic. A young French brand with exquisitely vintage lines that has managed to win over both new enthusiasts and historic collectors at the same time. It was conceptually born in 2015 along with Etienne Malec‘s desire to approach watchmaking through new “lenses”. After two years, in April 2017, a successful crowdfunding campaign enabled Etienne to raise well over five hundred thousand euros (selling in more than 50 countries) and officially found Baltic.
Baltic’s DNA is unique, and we will leave it to the founder to tell us about it:
““My passion for watchmaking started at the age of 16 when I discovered my father’s watch collection. He was a photographer, a collector and a real enthusiast. He died when I was 5 years old, so I never had the chance to get to know him well. For years he meticulously kept a diary in which he kept track of every watch he came across during his life. He was originally from Poland and came to France at a young age, which is why I chose Baltic as the brand name.
Today I still have his collection and the book in which he included all the photos of the watches he exchanged/sold to other collectors. His collection was mainly about chronographs and military watches. My inspiration for our first project inspired by the 1940s came from his collection, which I always find perfect in its simplicity. This adventure is therefore the best homage I could pay to my father and the ideal way to express my inspirations. From transmission to passion, from passion to creation.”
THE TWO MILESTONES, HMS AND BICOMPAX
Baltic’s adventure takes the form of two specific watches: the Baltic HMS 001 and the Bicompax 001 ‘time only’ and ‘chronograph’ respectively. These inaugural lines, although not in a high price bracket, carry with them the traits of a distant watchmaking tradition. Specifically, they preserve and reinterpret the typical design of the watches of the 1930s (of a military nature from the Longines “3-notch” line) and the 1940s (of the historic chronographs with “3-notch” cases and the 13ZN calibre, also by Longines), characterised by a one-piece screw-down waterproof stepped case, domed plexi crystal and highly legible dials.
The clearly vintage-inspired design is complemented by robust and reliable movements such as the Miyota 8315 and the Seagull ST1901. The success of the first watches leads Baltic, in 2020, towards the creation of further iterations: the HMS 002 and the Bicompax 002, which retain the same case (38mm with a total thickness of 13mm), movements and price point, receiving updates only on details and dial finishes.
A NEW BEGINNING: THE BICOMPAX 003
In the summer of 2023, Baltic’s two milestones make an upgrade that coexists with, rather than replaces, the previous 002 models and their production. These are the HMS 003 and the Bicompax 003 whose features we will take a closer look at. The Bicompax 003 was presented in July with an updated size and three new configurations: Blue Gilt, Salmon and Silver Blue.
In all models and variants, the stepped case is scaled down from the original 38 x 47mm to 36.5 x 46mm. Its diameter, together with the thickness of only 13mm (including the crystal) and the domed hesalite crystal guarantee a perfect fit, and the contrast between the brushed finish of the case and the polished finish of the step accentuate the overall elegance and balance. Other exquisitely nostalgic details include the pierced lugs and the more pronounced winding crown, the latter chosen because of its greater grip when winding the movement.
The new sector dial, especially in the ‘salmon’ version, is the most eagerly awaited and desired part of the entire watch community. It has a splendid colour gradation that oscillates, using an oenological metaphor, between shades of rosé and champagne. Its most central part features a grené finish obtained by a sandblasting process, while the outer sector together with the chapter ring share the same circular brushed finish.
The combination and alternation of sandblasted and brushed finishes skilfully enhances the dial and creates a kind of rhythm between the levels of its different sectors. The presence of polished applied hour markers, divided between batons and Arabic numerals, and silvered leaf-shaped hands adds a further, unmissable note of classicism.
On the technical front, the movement contained within the Baltic Bicompax 003 is the Seagull ST1901. This manual chronograph calibre, despite having a simple architecture (Venus 150 base and column wheel), remains robust, reliable and sufficiently precise.
PRICES AND AVAILABILITY
Among Baltic’s ‘key points’ is the great balance between quality and price. In fact, it is possible to access the new HMS 003 and Bicompax 003 lines, time-only and chronograph respectively, for € 439.20 and € 658.80 (tax included). The purchase options also include the possibility of choosing between a leather strap or bracelet (flatlink or grain of rice type) and whether to have a closed or open back (with a possible addition of €30).
Considering the cost, the features on offer and the wearability, Baltic’s new entries are set to become excellent as well as versatile companions for collectors and new enthusiasts.
By Luca Barone