GENEVA — Watchmakers brought their A-game to this first physical edition of Watches and Wonders, and visitors came away with a handful of overarching ideas.
On the one hand, there was the ever-narrowing gap between high jewelry and timekeeping, with opulent designs and diamonds galore — and not just in pursuit of a female clientele. On the other, it was all about fantasy and escapism, which coalesced into a message of hope in light of the unsteady global geopolitical situation. Everywhere, blue continued to dominate as the color of the moment.
And in this profusion, houses big and small pushed the envelope with innovative materials, mechanical artistry or poetic complications, many presented for the first time.
Here are 11 timepieces worth seeing — or not seeing, like H. Moser’s nearly invisible Streamliner Chronograph “Blacker Than Black,” a one-off concept coated in Vantablack, a pigment that absorbs 99.965 percent of the light that hits it.
Tag Heuer Carrera Plasma: 350,000 Swiss Francs (or $375,000 at current exchange)
Forget finding the right diamonds to set on a watch: Tag Heuer is growing the ones it uses on its new Carrera Plasma.
“Our vision was to create…shapes impossible to have with natural diamonds,” said the watchmaker’s chief executive officer Frédéric Arnault at a keynote event unveiling the piece, which features a 2.5-carat crown made of a single gem of their “Diamants d’Avant-Garde.”
Cue a watch that plays on textures to highlight its baseline palette of black and white, using materials from black ceramic and DLC coating to the dial with its polycrystalline diamond plate.
Inside, the Heuer 02 Tourbillon Nanograph movement keeps it ticking, with the in-house carbon hairspring that had Tag Heuer and LVMH Watches and Jewelry’s chief innovation officer Edouard Mignon saying the brand “explored the many possibilities of carbon [and] felt [it] could go with [its] ultimate form — diamonds.”
Chanel J12 Diamond Tourbillon: $179,700
There may be a significant number of diamonds on the J12 Diamond Tourbillon, but there is only one that sets it apart: the solitaire that spins on itself atop the dial.
The Caliber 5 that is the heart of this timepiece is the first in-house flying tourbillon movement made by the French fashion house in its Swiss manufacture.
“You’ll find a tourbillon in all the great names [of watchmaking], but a diamond flying tourbillon where the [gemstone] is sitting on top, floating and doing one turn per minute…that’s Chanel. I wanted to have that balance between technical achievement and aesthetics,” said the house’s president of watches and jewelry Frédéric Grangié.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Perpetual Chronograph: $140,000
Continuing the limited editions seen in the Collection Excellence Platine, this perpetual chronograph combines a salmon-colored dial and a platinum case, in a nod to the heyday of classical watchmaking where colored dials were seen as the ultimate in elegance.
Subtle details set this model powered by the in-house 1142 QP calibre apart, such as the faceted Maltese cross that sits at 12 o’clock, and the engraved platinum disc that reveals a smiling or melancholy moon depending on the celestial body’s phase.
Christian Selmoni, heritage and style director at Vacheron Constantin, revealed that while the new signature combination was unique to this chronograph, it could be seen in years to come on other models.
Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur: $22,550
This new iteration of the Arceau model reprises the idea of a peripheral satellite developed with Swiss complication specialists Chronode that travels from city to city to tell the time at destinations engraved on the flange, changing the face of the watch as it goes.
More than a GMT-style timepiece and different to a world-time model, it reprises the idea imparted by the house’s late chairman Jean-Louis Dumas that traveling is “a state of mind, a way of life that Hermès has always cultivated.”
The “home time” is displayed at the top of the dial, while the small clock floats above the “Planisphère d’un Monde Equestre,” an imaginary equestrian world map originally imagined by graphic designer Jérôme Colliard for a silk scarf and here revisited through laser-engraving, lacquer and a variety of finishes.
Chopard L.U.C. Full Strike Sapphire: $450,000
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of its L.U.C. watches, Chopard presented this 42.5mm fully transparent version of its award-winning Full Strike minute repeater timepiece. Case, crown, dial and even the gongs are cut from sapphire, leaving the intricacies of the timepiece fully visible.
This five-piece limited edition is part of a trilogy that includes the L.U.C. Full Strike Tourbillon with its 18-karat guilloché dial and repeating mechanism paired with a tourbillon, and the L.U.C. Strike One, an elegantly pared-back design with two contrasting guilloché patterns on the dial.
The striking feature of all three is the rich sound, finessed with the help of French world-class violinist Renaud Capuçon and his cellist brother Gautier, who worked with scientist Romain Boulandet, an expert in applied acoustics.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II: $11,500
While the green on the bezel and GMT hand are the first thing that strikes one upon looking at this Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II, its major feature is the crown and crown-guard positioned on the left.
This led to several technical adjustments to the movement to allow the date aperture and lens to move to the 9 o’clock position, as well as the protocol and testing for the Superlative Chronometer certification.
While there have been left-handed models — most famously, Charlie Chaplin’s steel and enamel Rolex wristwatch — this iteration firmly establishes “destro” watches as an option, whatever your dominant hand may be.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Dazzling Star: $75,500
“Random” and “time” aren’t two words watchmakers would naturally associate, but that’s exactly what the watchmaking maison went for in the Rendez-Vous Dazzling Star.
Part of this year’s Stellar Odyssey theme, paying homage to the cosmic phenomena at the origins of horological history, this watch captures the unpredictable shooting star with a new mechanism that makes it appear on the dial at random times. That said, the house’s experts hinted that the more you move, the more likely you are to see the celestial body appear on your wrist.
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales: $246,500
In the age of smart devices, who needs a watch to just tell the time? Inspired by the floral clock concept by 18th-century Swedish botanist Carl Von Linné, in which he imagined keeping time thanks to plants that opened and closed at specific moments of the day, the Lady Arpels Heures Florales turns time into a poetic observation of an ever-changing bouquet.
Instead of hands, it’s the opening and closing of blooms on the dial that indicates the hours, thanks to 166 enamel-painted moving elements on the dial. As for those who want to count the minutes until the next blooming, minutes are read on the side of the case.
Hublot Square Bang Unico: from $22,700
Fitting circular gears of a movement into a square watch, “a very specific object that most watchmakers dare not tackle,” according to Hublot’s CEO Ricardo Guadalupe, is the challenge that the brand went for in the Square Bang Unico.
The sandwich construction of its dial gives this timepiece an architectural feel that is on full display due to the extensive use of sapphire. And it’s water-resistant to 100 meters — another feat for a square model.
Trilobe Une Folle Journée: 21,500 euros (or $23,430)
Turning the reading of time on its head is the mission that this four-year-old independent French brand gave itself. Instead of mobile hands, it’s off-center concentric rings that turn, with an indicator marking the appropriate digits.
Une Folle Journée’s voluminous sapphire dome displays the intricacies of Trilobe’s latest X-Centric3 movement while giving its patented display plenty of room — and readability even from the side.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante: $28,700
Blending the GMT function with the minimalist ideals of its parent collection launched in late 2021, the Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante does away with the additional time display in favor of two superimposed hour hands. The rose gold “home time” hand stays hidden behind the rhodium-plated gold one, which jumps forward when activated.
According to CEO Guido Terreni, reinventing this useful function in a “discreet, unostentatious spirit” put paid to the idea that aesthetics and technique are worlds apart. “The way you develop a complication has incredible implications on the mood of the watch and hence on its design,” he stated.