Watch Wonders Never Cease – The New York Times


The doors have closed for another year on Switzerland’s big annual watch fair, Watches and Wonders Geneva, leaving retailers, consumers and weary critics to sift through hundreds of new references for indications of trend, excellence and — to use tortured brand-speak — desirability. Despite a good turnout of almost 50 watch companies in Geneva, some of the big players like Audemars Piguet, Dior and Louis Vuitton stayed away. So we should turn our gaze on some of their offerings, too.

The notion of waiting lists for everyday luxury watches (anything, that is, not made to order or produced in small batches) is increasingly familiar to prospective buyers, even if the practice is largely restricted to a handful of recognizable dial names like Rolex and Patek Philippe. These four were released at Watches and Wonders Geneva last week, but if one takes your fancy, you may need to be ready to stand in line.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 6007G

While the brand, almost single-handedly, led the great watch industry revival of the past 25 years (“You never actually own a Patek Philippe…”), it’s become a tad stuck in its ways. Watches that a contemporary buyer might wear rather than lock away as an insurance policy have been all but limited to the Swiss giant’s Nautilus and Aquanaut models, both of which saw demand far outstrip supply. Signs of a rethink came last year with a pair of white gold Calatrava models on calfskin nubuck straps and now continue with a further group of three sporty-ish looks, distinguishable by their blue, red or yellow detailing. While round and vaguely youthful, they’re still cased in white gold, hence the high price point for a time-and-date-only wristwatch on a leather strap. $37,850

A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph

Like every watch brand in the Richemont stable, A. Lange & Söhne is tight-lipped about any numbers that might affect the group’s share price. One that collectors would be glad to know, however, is how many Odysseus watches have been produced since the company introduced the model four years ago. Some estimates are in the low three figures, despite off-the-chart demand. Lange, as it is generally called, seems content to continue toying with its potential buyers, introducing a chronograph version of its first series-produced stainless steel bracelet watch that will run to just 100 numbered pieces. It’s no ordinary chrono, of course. Both its running and chronograph seconds hands are centralized, leaving room for the brand’s signature date and day-of-the-week indications. Cue gasps of anticipation from lusting collectors. Price on application

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Date Openface

Few among the establishment watch brands — we’re talking about those founded around the time the Declaration of Independence was signed — have entered the modern world with the swagger of Vacheron Constantin. In the past decade, the company, with roots in 1755, has created the most complicated mechanical watch ever made and trialed partnerships with Abbey Road Studios and the Louvre. Into that convincing paradigm comes this gray and pink gold number, a high complication characterized by a tourbillon and a 180-degree retrograde date (one that points to the date on a scale). There’s a signature sober style to the watch, made all the more Vacheron by the dial’s openworked elements, a decorative approach that the company first dabbled with more than a century ago. Price on application

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Féerie Or Rose

High-end watchmaking has few more telling measures of success than the number of prizes a brand scoops up at the annual Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. In November, Van Cleef took home two and was considered a prime contender for the top prize, proof that its poetic complications, as it calls them, are winning hearts and minds. What was particularly noteworthy was that its innovation prize win was for a women’s watch; typically such awards are reserved for boys’ toys. Continuing that theme is the enchanting Lady Féerie Or Rose, a watch decorated with a bejeweled fairy who points to the passing minutes with a diamond-tipped wand. The dreamlike scene is colored in dusky pink, achieved with a number of métiers d’art techniques, including plique-à-jour enamel. (French for “letting in daylight,” it uses no backing on elements so light can shine through.) Another spellbinding piece. Price on application

One of watchmaking’s undeniable trends is that mechanical watches are being made in smaller quantities and sold at higher prices. While that might pigeonhole the sector by value, it is prompting some creatives to let their imaginations fly in a bid to capture our ever-lessening attention with more and more adventurous watches. Not everyone’s in on it, though. These eight go some way to explaining the eclectic nature of the new models this year.

Louis Vuitton Tambour Opera Automata

The watchmaking tour de force that was Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Carpe Diem in 2021 returns in the guise of a Bian Lian mask, a feature of Sichuan opera in China. Seen in two dimensions, it’s hard to appreciate its complexity. Flick a latch on the case and its mechanism stirs into life, the dragon’s head sliding to reveal a jumping hour display and its tail pointing to a retrograde minute display. The mask’s jaw drops; its left eye winks; and its right eye, decorated with Louis Vuitton’s four-petal flower monogram, blooms. Spectacular. Price on application

Bulgari Octo Roma Chronograph

Not even Bulgari can categorize its Octo Roma — “classic-yet-not-quite” was its try in a recent news release. Since 2014, the Italian company has used the Swiss Made Octo Finissimo as a vehicle for its elevated watchmaking ambitions, picking up world records for thinness and industry awards on the way. But its challenging form isn’t for everyone. The Roma offers a softer, more wearable silhouette — and, for the first time, gets a chronograph. A winning combination. $9,150

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph

Imagine, if you can, a time when Audemars Piguet was simply a master of horology rather than a master of hype. That would take you back to the late 1990s and the “End of Days,” a black-P.V.D. (physical vapor deposition) version of the beefy Royal Oak Offshore made for Arnold Schwarzenegger to wear in the 1999 film. The arrangement turbocharged a culture of celebrity endorsements and collaborations at Audemars Piguet and certainly contributed to its prevalence in high-end watchmaking today. The watch returns as a 500-piece edition in hard-wearing black ceramic for the 30th anniversary of the Offshore, but without the Austrian Oak himself. $60,300

Gucci 25H Skeleton Flying Tourbillon

There’s a clear precedent for high-end fashion brands making it in fine watchmaking. But while Gucci isn’t exactly new to the space, it has not yet had the impact of Chanel, Hermès, Bulgari or Louis Vuitton. Signs are that it is trying to change that with a vast new high-watchmaking collection inspired by the cosmos. Among the 2023 pieces is this skeletonized flying tourbillon version of the urbane 25H, one of four peppy pieces in white gold on rubber straps. Price on application

Louis Erard Excellence Marqueterie

Not all watch brands are pushing prices north of eye watering. Louis Erard has decided to make the inaccessible accessible, specifically métiers d’art watches, typically created at great expense and in very low volumes by establishment makers such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. The geometric pattern in the dial of this mechanical piece champions a technique called miniature wood marquetry, a sort of tiny wooden mosaic. There will be 99 of them, each with a dial made by the Swiss artisan Bastien Chevalier. $4,900

Dior La D My Dior

Dior’s ability to reinterpret its codes has proved fundamental to its longevity — and its appeal. The cannage, or woven cane, pattern applied to watches in the new La D My Dior collection, echoes details of the Napoleon III chairs at its flagship 30 Avenue Montaigne boutique in Paris — the chairs that guests used on Feb. 12, 1947, to watch the introduction of Dior’s New Look. Talk about connections. This is the 25-millimeter gold model. $48,000

Gerald Charles Maestro GC Sport Clay

Tennis has a long association with Swiss watchmaking. But not many brands commend wearing their watches on court: Delicate mechanics and rifled forehands don’t mix. Gerald Charles says the GC Sport version of its oddball Maestro has been tested by ATP Tour players and come through unscathed — a point it makes with two additions to its Gerald Genta legacy model with textured and colored dials linked to the coming clay- and grass-court tennis seasons. $19,000

Nomos Glashütte Club Campus

The German independent’s “moment” came a decade ago amid a rush of enthusiasm for so-called accessible mechanical watchmaking. While the story has moved on and up, Nomos Glashütte hasn’t, pushing the brand into the shadows somewhat, a poor reflection on the watchmaking commentariat, now in thrall to high-tariff watches that oil the wheels of online search. This Club Campus is powered by the brand’s hand-wound Alpha movement but costs only $100 more than TAG Heuer’s quartz Formula 1. The new dials — in cream coral and electric green — may not hold universal appeal, but there are conventional options. $1,500



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