After two years of pandemic-related disruption, the luxury watch world descended on Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the latest watch trends and the most exciting new watches at the annual Watches & Wonders trade show.
With nearly every heavyweight brand and CEO in attendance, the six-day event offered a chance to take the pulse of Swiss watchmaking, an industry that generated over $24 billion in exports in 2021 – no only matching pre-pandemic levels, but up 2.7% on 2019, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
Like many luxury sectors, watchmaking has been affected by Covid-19 in many ways, from closing boutiques to halting production in the Jura mountains, where most of the country’s watch factories are located. since the 19th century. But just as they did in the 1980s – faced with near decimation at the hands of cheaper new quartz technology from Asia – luxury watches have proven their enduring emotional appeal by rebounding in little of time.
The rebound may be due to wealthy buyers seeking tangible investments amid economic uncertainty or even finding themselves with more cash on hand after months without vacations or entertainment. And after being held virtually for the past two years, Watches & Wonders was poised to capitalize on resurgent demand with an IRL fair that welcomed over 22,000 visitors.
And, boy, were there any creations this year — many of which were in development long before the pandemic but on display for the very first time.
In each vaulted hall of Watches & Wonders, which ended last week, delegates rejoiced at showcases showcasing a veritable rainbow of colorful timepieces, ceramic and titanium innovations, jazzy interchangeable straps, plenty of travel features and stunners for occasions (we’re still going out, after all).
“It always seems a bit like the whole watch industry had a discussion beforehand to agree on the big trends,” said the CEO of the watch manufacturer IWC, Christoph Grainger-Herr, during his visit to the historic brand shipping container pavilion. “Last year there was a huge presence of green. After the pandemic, we saw a whole explosion of color in all directions, and I think there’s a playfulness coming back.”
“It’s fantastic to be back,” enthused Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-CEO of Chopard, from the threshold of his own gleaming wood-panelled pavilion, “because there’s nothing like showing watches ( and) jewelry in real time, to real people… And that’s irreplaceable.”
Here are 10 of the most eye-catching watches on display at this year’s Watches & Wonders show:
Patek Philippe Calatrava Reference 5226G
The elements of Patek Philippe’s Calatrava watch were inspired by vintage objects like a time-worn camera case. Credit: Patek-Philippe
With the Patek Philippe obsessives, of whom there are many, giving up hope of acquiring a recently discontinued Nautilus reference 5711 (unless you lose an exorbitant sum on the second-hand market), there is another option. Cool and youthful, yet just classic enough, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Reference 5226G sports a refined case with a studded guilloché pattern running the full circumference of the caseband. The charcoal gray dial, which fades to black around the edge, features a grainy texture deliberately reminiscent of vintage camera bodies.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II has a long waiting list to buy. Credit: rolex
There is always buzz around the Rolex booth. Sure enough, Switzerland’s biggest brand (with an estimated 29% share of the country’s watch industry, according to Morgan Stanley) surprised us all not only by giving its GMT-Master II travel watch a new ceramic bezel green and black, but repositioning its crown for left-handers. For such an established watch design – the first to combine a 24-hour “local time” hand with a rotating bezel – the new configuration requires mental as well as temporal adjustment. But the result is as beautiful as it is of great value. (If you can get on the waitlist in the first place.)
Parmigiani Tonda PF Rattrapante GMT
The Parmigiani Tonda allows you to see the local and local time for those who travel often. Credit: Parmigiani Fleurier
Ever since Parmigiani Fleurier hit the nail on the head with last year’s Tonda PF range (like so many pandemic-era launches, it had been hard to predict, let alone gauge collector interest) , the buzz around the Swiss watchmaker was at its peak . This beautiful new version of the Voyageur GMT will further enhance the reputation of the brand. Push the button at 8 o’clock to move your “local” hour hand forward or back as you venture across time zones, while a second gold hour hand keeps you anchored at home.
Cartier Mysterious Masse
Cartier’s line of “mystery” clocks began over 100 years ago. Credit: cartier
This watch took eight years to make, which may seem odd considering how little ornate the dial is. This is, however, the latest in Cartier’s long line of “mystery” clocks dating back to 1912, when the French brand launched a clock face that seemed to float in mid-air. Here, six layers of sapphire crystal support the hands and the central winding rotor, which also houses the very (and necessarily) shock-resistant movement that winds as you move your arm. In fact, the only conventional thing about this watch is the way it tells time.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Date Dazzling Star
The movement of the wrist triggers the Dazzling Star watch by Jaeger-LeCoultre to release a shooting star on the dial. Credit: Jaeger
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s MO is all about precision, so there were plenty of eyebrows raised during the brand’s Watches & Wonder presentation as it described its latest mechanical innovation as reflecting the unpredictable and romantic nature of shooting stars. . After all, how can precise watch mechanics be designed to behave randomly? Well, the firm certainly delivered with this complication. Using the kinetic power provided by the daily (and unpredictable) movement of the wearer’s wrist, a star crosses the dial’s aventurine sky at arbitrary times of the day. Jaeger-LeCoultre keeps the mechanics of this exploit secret. But who wants facts when you can have magic?
Vacheron Constantin Historic 222
The Vacheron watch recalls the “sporty chic” trend of 1972. Credit: Vacheron
It was Audemars Piguet that started the “sport chic” watch trend in 1972, with its immortal, octagonal Royal Oak design launched to the booming disco-glitz jet set of the time. Patek Philippe was next, with its 1976 Nautilus line offering its own luxurious take on steel. Vacheron Constantin followed suit the following year by making its integrated geometric bracelet design entirely in sumptuous gold, the “222” in its name marking the watchmaker’s 222nd anniversary. Forty-five years later, the original Riviera blinger is back and still just as silky on the wrist, equipped with all the latest mechanical technology.
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Titanium
The Odysseus Titanium is made from strong and lightweight titanium. Credit: © Lange Uhren GmbH
While Vacheron Constantin has basically brought back a legend from the 70s, its stablemate from Richemont, A. Lange & Söhne, instead nurtures a whole new approach to the integrated sports-luxury genre. Now in titanium, it’s something no one expected from Germany’s most venerable and traditional watchmaker – which is pretty much the point. But it’s not a gimmick either. Titanium is around 45% lighter than steel and significantly stronger, scoring a 6 on the Mohs hardness scale (where diamond is 10 and steel just 4). Additionally, a new ice blue dial has been hand-guilloché, producing soft arcs that bring new consistency to Lange’s Ulysse.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Lake Tahoe”
IWC’s Pilot watch is inspired by the snow-capped mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe. Credit: IWC Schaffhausen
Just across the border from Germany, in the Swiss town of Schaffhausen, IWC has been at the forefront of titanium watchmaking since 1980, when it collaborated with Porsche on a chronograph. This year, he’s collaborating with another speed merchant: the US Navy Fighter Instructor School made famous by ‘Top Gun’ (and just in time for Tom Cruise’s reprisal of his ‘Maverick’ role). owner of the new film). IWC’s new frosted white ceramic case, registered by Pantone, is inspired by the snow-capped mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe, which the Nevada School’s trainee pilots fly over. But the design is surely more “Iceman” than “Maverick”.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo includes a laser-etched QR code that transports you to a unique NFT version of the accessory. Credit: Bulgari
Ten years is a setback in time for watchmaking, but it was at this speed that Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite Roman jeweler managed to establish its monumental 110-faceted Octo as a modern classic. He also broke eight amazing world records for thinness. It’s the latest, which steals the record for the thinnest wristwatch in Piaget’s history, shrinking things an extra 0.2 millimeters to a diaphanous 1.8 millimeters (0.07 inches). The watch is little more than its movement, with its case serving as the base plate and the recessed hands. There’s also a laser-etched QR code on the winding barrel – your portable ticket to the watch’s unique NFT.
Top image: Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222