Bringing Baselworld and SIHH under one roof for the first time, Watches and Wonders in Geneva showcased the premieres of the most prestigious watch brands.
Formally, the merger took place in 2021, but exclusively in digital format. A constellation of the best watch brands from Geneva and Basel could now be observed in the Palexpo pavilion near the Geneva airport, with the latter moving here along with the exhibition stands, so that the merging of two parallel worlds was very vividly felt by those who regularly attended both events.
According to Watches and Wonders exhibitors, during the pandemic, they managed to get used to the forced remote presentation format and the year-long schedule of premieres, adjusted to the needs of individual markets, so they gathered in Geneva not so much to showcase all the novelties of the year and conclude contracts how much for live communication.
Many of them, therefore, were in no hurry to strike with revolutionary breakthroughs. Most of them presented well-known models and movements with updated design or functional improvements (different case sizes, striking dials). However, there were notable exceptions.
The most striking release of 2022 can undoubtedly be called Cartier Masse Mysterieuse. This model returns to the traditions of the "mystical" mechanics of the house, but far exceeds past achievements. This time, the new caliber 9801MC is entirely housed in the self-winding inertial sector, which rotates inside the case as if by itself, with no visible connection to the crown. It took eight years to develop this elegant masterpiece of micromechanics. This design compensates for the influence of the earth's gravity better than the tourbillon, since the entire mechanism is in constant motion, rotating with the rotor. The model is presented in a platinum case with a diameter of 43,5 mm, the series is limited to 30 pieces.
Another landmark premiere of the exhibition was the Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-force Tourbillon. The concept, announced in 2020, has finally found a real embodiment. For the first time, the Caliber 9ST1 combines the tourbillon carriage and the constant force mechanism into an integrated module on the same axis, operating without additional gears. The finish of the skeletonized caliber in the traditional style of samurai armor is also impressive. The watch is presented in a platinum case with a diameter of 43,8 mm. The series, limited to 20 pieces, will be available in autumn.
The most spectacular mechanical premieres of the year are not tourbillons, but other devices. For example, the addition to the legendary Ulysse Nardin Freak S family uses a completely new escapement idea. It was a continuation of the 2018 Freak Vision concept, which for the first time used a pulse grinder instead of the traditional winding, giving more energy. The masters of the manufacture decided to take advantage of this advantage and put two silicon balances on the Freak bridge at once, connected by a complex vertical differential. This design provides greater stability and precision, while also looking very avant-garde. The new UN-251 caliber with a 72-hour power reserve is housed in a 45 mm rose gold and ceramic case and will be limited to 75 pieces.
Finally, one cannot fail to mention another Bvlgari world record. The Roman jewelry house did not formally participate in Watches and Wonders, but held a separate presentation. In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Octo Finissimo collection, the company introduced the world's thinnest mechanical watch Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Ultra. The case height is only 1,8 mm. It is possible that this record will never be broken.
Waves of time
In anticipation of the summer season, special attention at the combined exhibition was given to new diving and yachting watches. So, Panerai presented a whole collection of Submersible QuarantaQuattro. The last word in the title means "44", which is the single diameter of the new models (in addition to the already existing 42 and 47 mm). It includes watches with a steel case and a rubber bracelet, eSteel models, and a new version of the Submersible QuarantaQuattro Luna Rosso, developed in collaboration with the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli yachting team for the 37th America's Cup. The steel case houses the P.900 automatic caliber with a three-day power reserve. The series is limited to 1500 pieces.
Two new versions of the Yacht-Master were presented by the Rolex brand, participating in the exhibition for the first time. If the Yacht-Master 42 in pink gold with a ceramic bezel has a rather classic look, the jeweler Yacht-Master 40 with a white gold case lavishly encrusted with multi-colored sapphires and diamonds sets a completely different tone for the yachtsman. Both are equipped with the latest chronometer caliber 3235 with Chronergy escapement and 70-hour power reserve.
The famous Alpine glacier in Chamonix was the inspiration for the Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea, the brand's first diving collection. The rare gratté boisé dial, with a lacquered scratch pattern, conveys the texture of ice with surprising resemblance. The model in a steel case with a diameter of 41 mm and an automatic caliber MB 24.17 based on the Sellita SW200-1 complies with the diving standard ISO 6425.
TAG Heuer has set its own record for modern diving watches with the launch of the Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver.
As the name suggests, its 45mm titanium case with exceptionally bright dial illumination is water resistant to depths of up to 1km. The model is equipped with a new caliber TH30-00 with a 72-hour power reserve created by the Kenissi manufactory, which supplies these movements to Tudor, Chanel and Norqain.
Around the world
Since we are talking about models for scuba diving, it is worth taking a closer look at the new watches for travelers.
The most poetic interpretation of the function of "world time" is presented in Arceau Le Temps Voyageur, created by Hermès creative director Philippe Delothal and watchmaker Jean-Francois Mojon.
The dial is adorned with an “equestrian planisphere” designed by Jérôme Coillard for the Hermès show jumping event and previously adorned one of the signature scarves. Home time can be seen in the window at 12 o'clock, and the world time indicator moves along the inner circumference of the 24-hour ring of cities by pressing a button on the left side of the case.
Parmigiani has completed the Tonda PF, introduced at the end of 2021, with a new GMT Rattrapante function based on the split chronograph principle.
In normal mode, the watch shows the current time, but when you press the button at 8 o'clock, a rose gold second time zone hand appears from under the hour hand, which moves in one hour increments. To disable the function, you need to press the gold button on the crown. The Parmigiani Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante with automatic caliber PF051 with micro rotor is presented in a steel case with a diameter of 40 mm.
The Travel Time feature that Patek Philippe previously featured on the Pilot models is now available in the Calatrava line with an unusual design. The grainy texture of the charcoal gray dial is reminiscent of the finish of old cameras, while the side of the 41 mm white gold case is decorated with a “clou de Paris” pattern. Models Annual Calendar Travel Time Ref. 5326G are equipped with a new caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H with the function of switching the annual calendar from home to local time.
Time of the titans
In conclusion, I would like to talk about the most noticeable trend of 2022, which has affected most premieres: in the cases of everyday models, titanium is increasingly replacing the usual steel. This is frustrating for some lovers of heavy watches, but lightness and durability are among the main requirements of the new generation of customers.
The Saxon manufactory A. Lange & Söhne embodies this trend from the new Odysseus collection with a titanium case and bracelet. With a diameter of 40,5 mm and a thickness of 11,1 mm, the watch hardly burdens the wrist. Inside is the same automatic caliber L155.1 Datomatic. The series is limited to 250 copies.
Hublot paid a lot of attention to the "material of the year". It is present in the Square Bang Unico collection (where for the first time in the history of the brand models are presented in a square case with a diameter of 42 mm and with the new Unico 2 caliber with a power reserve of 72 hours), as well as in the avant-garde Classic Fusion Orlinski line (where a combination of brushed and polished titanium surfaces creates a graphic silhouette of the watch and bracelet).
There is even a titanium version of the ultra-complex Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton with the in-house Caliber 2160, and it looks almost more spectacular than the same model in rose gold.
Not without titanium and world premieres for connoisseurs of extreme sports. Affordable movement brand Oris has unveiled its all-new ProPilot X Caliber 400 collection, featuring an automatic in-house movement that has proven itself in the dive series. Now it has received a new modern aircraft case made of titanium with a diameter of 39 mm with water resistance to a depth of 100 m, stylish colored dials and an integrated titanium bracelet.
And the limited edition Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen LE290 is designed specifically for extreme travel like climbing Everest. Two living legends of mountaineering took part in its creation, Reinhold Messner (who first climbed the highest peak of the Earth without an oxygen tank in 1978) and Nimsdai Purja (set a scandalous record in 2019, conquering all the eight-thousanders of the world in 6 months and 6 days - earlier on it took many years). The 44mm titanium case with ceramic bezel and compass markings is evacuated to protect the precision movement (MB caliber 29.27 with chronograph function and 24-hour GMT in both hemispheres) from moisture and oxidation. The series is limited to 290 pieces.
These are just a few of the new products of the Watches and Wonders salon and a small part of what watch companies have prepared for the show during the year. The exhibition fulfilled its main task, because mechanical watches bring real joy not on the computer screen, but when you can take them, listen to the movement of the mechanism and, of course, put them on your hand.