The Best of Watches and Wonders 2020, a Trade Show Gone Digital
(Bloomberg) -- The Watches & Wonders experience in 2020 differed greatly from those of previous years, when the Geneva-based luxury watch fair was known as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). Rather than jetting to Switzerland for a week of in-person presentations and hands-on photo sessions—punctuated by Champagne, foie gras, VIP dinners, and general industry camaraderie—watch journalists worldwide tuned in from our home offices to the first online version of the salon, where more than a dozen watchmakers, including the former SIHH’s traditional tentpole brands, unveiled dozens of intriguing new timepieces on a groundbreaking digital platform. The good news: Despite the ravages still being wrought by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic on public and economic health, it’s looking like a very strong year for high-end watches. Here are 10 highlights from Watches & Wonders 2020.
A. Lange & Soehne Odysseus
German high-horology maestro A. Lange & Soehne shook up the watch world last fall with the introduction of its first steel sport-luxury watch on an integrated bracelet, the Odysseus. This year, Lange doubles down on both the luxury and the sport aspects, introducing a new case in 18k white gold and replacing the bracelet with a sporty, ventilated rubber strap—the first such wristlet ever used on a Lange timepiece. Behind the sharp, anthracite dial is the in-house Caliber L155.1 Datomatic, with a 50-hour power reserve, which drives the outsized, symmetrical day-date display. Price: $40,600.
Cartier Pasha de Cartier Skeleton
Leave it to Cartier to successfully fit a square peg into a round hole. In 1985, the King of Jewelers (which also brought the world several of our most iconic watches) introduced the Pasha, a timepiece that placed a squared minute track inside a round case and swiftly became a cult hit for the era. The revamped Pasha de Cartier, which headlines this year’s collection, retains much of the charm of the original while adding a smattering of modern features, including the chained, blue spinel crown and a “QuickSwitch” interchangeable strap system. The Skeleton model is a particular standout, with both its hour numerals and minute track formed by the bridges of the manual-winding Caliber 9624 MC. Price: $25,300.
Hermès Slim d’Hermès GMT
Luxury leather goods purveyor Hermès has won richly deserved praise for its timepieces, particularly those in its elegant Slim d’Hermès collection defined by slender, curved cases, right-angled lugs, and flowing numeral font and created by longtime Hermès designer Philippe Apeloig. The new GMT model is a worthy addition, in a rose-gold case and multitextured blue dial, with a sunburst center, snailed date counter, and grained, silver-toned subdial whose playfully arranged numerals indicate a second time zone via a blued hand. The self-winding, ultra-thin caliber inside drives the traveler-friendly functions via a module developed specially for Hermès by the complications specialists at Aghenor. Price: $19,675.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication
Few watchmakers are as boldly dedicated to packing multiple esoteric functions into one timekeeping package as Jaeger-LeCoultre. The venerable company again proves its mettle with this highly complex piece and its celestial theme. Foremost among its array of complications is a minute repeater, with patented crystal gongs and perfectly weighted trebuchet hammers for optimized striking, along with an in-house-developed silent governor to eliminate background buzz while chiming. The watch’s Orbital Flying Tourbillon makes one rotation around the dial each sidereal day (the unit of measurement used by astronomers). Indicated on the periphery of the dial are the day, date, month, and zodiac signs, which correspond with the constellation map dazzlingly presented on the watch's face. Price: Upon request.
IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tides
This year IWC added to its Portugieser Yacht Club collection, a nautical-inspired sub-family of the larger Portugieser series, for the first time since 2010. The most noteworthy new model is an elegant yet utilitarian piece aimed at yachtsmen: the Moon & Tides, whose dial displays data such as the moon-phase, neap tides and spring tides (which occur at full moon and new moon) on the subdial at 12 o’clock, and the expected times for high tides and low tides at 6 o’clock. The gold-cased timepiece features a maritime blue dial and a matching blue textile strap. Price: $33,100.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
Montblanc’s mountaineering-themed world timer, the 1858 Geosphere, gets a glacier-blue makeover in its newest incarnation, with a brushed titanium case, a blue ceramic compass bezel, and an enamel dial with a blue-to-black gradation. The dial shows local time on the retro-style cathedral hands and displays two additional time zones on the domed hemisphere subdials—Northern at 12 o’clock, Southern at 6 o’clock—which make a rotation every 24 hours. Blue dots on the hemispheres mark the Seven Summits, the highest mountain peaks on every continent, which represent the holy grail for record-seeking climbers. Price: $5,800.
Panerai Luminor Marina Fibratech – 44MM
Panerai’s iconic Luminor family turns 70 this year, and the Florentine military dive-watch pioneer is celebrating with the introduction of an entirely new high-tech material into watchmaking—something of a specialty for the brand in recent years. Following up such past innovations as Carbotech and Goldtech, Panerai makes this Luminor’s barrel-shaped case out of Fibratech, a composite material derived from volcanic basalt fibers that is 60% lighter than steel and many times more corrosion-resistant. The material’s swirling surface pattern is unique in each case. Behind the dark blue, gradient dial, in Panerai’s familiar “sandwich” style with super-luminous stencil numerals, beats the in-house P.9010 caliber with its robust, three-day power reserve. Price: $16,000.
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
Since its introduction of the groundbreaking Caliber 9P back in 1957, Piaget has been at the forefront of making watches and their movements as thin as technology and style trends allow. In 2018, after four years of research and development, the watch-and-jewelry brand achieved a new level of horological slimness with the Altiplano Ultimate Concept watch, whose case was an astounding 2 mm thick. Following two years of further refinements, the model still has “Concept” in its name but is now commercially available. Among space-saving innovations are its cobalt alloy case, which also serves as the movement’s baseplate. The crown is telescoping and retractable, and its patented bridge structure is placed unconventionally over the dial, rather than beneath it. The mainspring barrel is exposed and drumless, and the balance wheel sits unconventionally on the side of the dial. Finally, the crystal is wafer thin. Perhaps most impressive, Piaget has designed the watch so that the bridges, hands, mainplate, and other elements can be color-customized. Price: Upon request.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Diabolus in Machina
Taking its name from the “Diabolus in Musica,” a dissonant tonal interval once outlawed in medieval church music, Roger Dubuis’s “Devil in the Machine” brings the minute repeater complication to a level that is, pardon the expression, complex as hell. To chime the time, the wearer pushes a button to activate a sequence of tones, low-pitched for hour, high-pitched for minutes, and two separate tones for quarter hours. Simultaneously, a Roman numeral disk at 11 o’clock that is marked with “Hours,” “Quarters,” and “Minutes” begins turning to visually illustrate the time units. To prevent adjustment of the watch while the repeater is engaged—inadvertently damaging it—Roger Dubuis has added two safety features: a lever at 4 o’clock that switches the movement from winding to time-setting mode and an “all-or-nothing” mechanism that ensures that only the firmest press of the pusher will activate the chimes. A unique piece (at least in this original incarnation) in a special antimagnetic-alloy case, it’s priced at $571,000.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph
From the Grande Complications workshop of the storied Geneva maison comes this gold timepiece combining two of haute horology’s most sophisticated and challenging micromechanical devices, a monopusher chronograph and a tourbillon. The latter complication dominates the dial in a wide aperture at 12 o’clock, accompanied by a power reserve indicator at 6 o’clock and a 45-minute totalizer for the stopwatch at 3 o’clock. The chronograph, whose stop, start, and reset are activated by a single button integrated into the crown, recalls those in pocketwatches of yore, and the tourbillon’s Maltese-cross-shaped carriage pays historical tribute to its maker’s 260-plus-year history. Price: $197,000.
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