Watches & Wonders 2022 - meet five very expensive ways to find out what time it is

The participation of a large number of famous watch and jewelry companies in the Watches & Wonders exhibition certainly provides a rich selection of watches for the very rich, but the cost of a particular model is not necessarily fabulous due to the abundance of precious stones that adorn the case or dial. In this review, we have included watches of well-known brands, which are not particularly decorated with anything (with the exception of one piece), because they themselves are the decoration of any collection - the level of craftsmanship, technical complexity and external attractiveness make them so.

Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon, $350

Grand Seiko, like many other brands participating in Watches & Wonders 2022, took part in the Geneva luxury watch industry show for the first time, and, like many other “newcomers”, presented a piece there, in the description of which the words “first” and "most". The Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon is the brand's first watch with a serious complication, it's the first Grand Seiko tourbillon, and it's a very expensive watch - if not the most expensive of those shown at Watches & Wonders 2022, but the price tag is 350 dollars provides them with a place of honor in our review.

For Grand Seiko, which has been in existence for more than 60 years, the addition of such complex watches to the collection is nothing less than the opening of a new chapter in its history. Until now, we have appreciated the brand for the time-tested family of mechanical calibers 9S, for high-quality quartz movements, for the Spring Drive system and, of course, for the original, inimitable design of the models - real Japanese watchmaking art. From now on, we will add the taming of the tourbillon to the list of achievements, a process that began in the company several years ago.

In 2020, Grand Seiko introduced a concept tourbillon movement (that's right, just the movement, no case) called the T0. Caliber T0, developed by R&D engineer and watchmaker Takuma Kawauchiya and his team over five years, was a tourbillon paired with a constant force movement. The constant force remontoir is an intermediate source of energy between the mainspring and the escapement. This is usually a spring attached to one of the gears in the wheel train that receives energy from the main mainspring before transferring it evenly to the escapement.

The idea is that the main spring gradually loses power and therefore transfers less and less power to the escapement, while the smaller spring can transfer power consistently and evenly over a longer time. Usually, as the spring winds down, the clock starts to run faster than it should: this is due to the fact that a decrease in energy leads to a loss of balance amplitude. The remontoir prevents this by not transferring too much or too little energy, regardless of the degree of spring winding.

The T0 caliber was just a conceptual development, a large movement that required incredible (especially for the Japanese market) case sizes. Two years passed, and the concept was transformed into a serial 9STI movement. This is a hand-wound caliber, running at 28 semi-oscillations per hour, with a power reserve of 800 hours, which provides 72 hours of operation with an accuracy of +50/-5 seconds per day. Each mechanism, according to the new standard of the brand, is tested for 3 hours in each of the six positions and at three temperatures, in general, "observations" continue for 48 days, and the chronometric characteristics of each instance are reflected in the certificate attached to the watch.

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Why do we devote so much time to the movement of the Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon watch? Since this is a skeleton watch (the first Grand Seiko skeleton), the Kodo movement is its dial. Until now, we have been pleased to look at the exquisite enamel or textured surfaces of the Grand Seiko dials, real masterpieces, where the play of light and shadow is literally mesmerizing - but the Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon does not deprive us of the usual pleasure at all.

Transparent through, layered and multi-faceted with exquisite detailing, this new platinum-cased Grand Seiko masterpiece is sure to delight its $350 Kodo owner, if there is no other reason to rejoice with such opulence.

Louis Moinet Astronef, $392

At the Geneva exhibition in 2022, the watchmaking studio Louis Moinet presented its new Astronef watch, the appearance of which the brand announced at the end of last year. This complex and luxurious model has completed the Mechanical Wonders watch collection, which makes its presence on Watches & Wonders, let's not be afraid of the word, symbolic: Wonders here, Wonders there ...

The Astronef double tourbillon by Louis Moinet recalls the heyday of super watches of the early 2000s – high-tech, bold, with openwork multi-level dials, with mechanisms that were supposed to not only tell the time, but also be the centers of attraction. Recently, this style is no longer so popular, vintage, minimalist, ultra-thin watches have come to the fore.

But Louis Moinet remained true to its philosophy, and fans of the brand never cease to rejoice at new releases. The Astronef is packaged in a 43,5mm case topped with a domed glass that makes the watch look like a curiosity box - the Astronef is a curiosity. Craftsmen from Louis Moinet do not want to be imaginative - wonderful, at the same time, original and very recognizable watches always work out for the brand, and the novelty also deserves to be looked at carefully.

In the Astronef, on the dial side, two tourbillons rotate in opposite directions at a fairly high speed - they intersect 18 times per hour, that is, every 3 minutes 20 seconds, for which they are designed at two different levels. In total, six separate elements are in motion: two orbital tourbillons, two carriages and two counterweights.

This miracle of mechanics is set in motion by the energy of two barrels, the mechanism consists of more than 400 parts, it takes a month to assemble. Of the interesting solutions - the crown function selector is located on the back of the case, so that the crown does not need to be pulled out, with a simple rotation you move the watch hands or wind the movement.

Ateliers Louis Moinet will release only 8 pieces of the model, so if you miss double tourbillons and mechanical marvels in general, get in line!

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Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Hybris Artistica Atomium Caliber 945, $535

This year, the Vallée de Joux manufactory presented some of its very high-priced creations at Watches & Wonders, and we will choose the most expensive of all, the Master Hybris Artistica Atomium Caliber 945, released in a limited edition of 5 pieces. This timepiece is a clear expression of Jaeger-LeCoultre's creative and technical achievements, true craftsmanship in the decorative arts, and proof of a unique expertise in the creation of astronomical complications.

Caliber 945 – this movement combines an orbital “flying cosmo tourbillon”, a minute repeater, a zodiac calendar and a star chart – a real celebrity in the watch world, it seems that there is no other like it, even if it was born in 2010. In the company itself, watches with the 945 were produced more than once, each new model is more beautiful than the previous one.

In the Master Hybris Artistica Atomium, we see a “familiar” picture for watches from the 945th. The tourbillon makes one revolution counterclockwise per sidereal day, which, recall, is shorter than the solar day and is approximately 23 hours 56 minutes and 4,1 seconds. A solar day is the number of hours it takes for the Sun to return to a given location in the sky, and a sidereal day is the amount of time it takes for a fixed star to return to a given location in the sky.

Since the Earth not only rotates, but also moves in its orbit, and since the Sun is relatively close to the Earth, the Earth actually has to complete a little more than one full revolution to return the Sun to the same place in the sky. But parallax, as we all know, is noticeable at short distances, and the stars are so far away that this effect is considered non-existent.

A small sun-shaped pointer on the edge of the dial shows solar time on a 24-hour scale, and also serves as a zodiacal month indicator, that is, it shows in which zodiac sign the Sun is located. Hour and minute hands show familiar to us "earthly" time. Pay attention to the firmament in the center of the dial - this is a map of the starry sky of the Northern Hemisphere from the position of the 46th parallel, where the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufactory is located, it shows the position of the constellations in real time.

In the Master Hybris Artistica Atomium Caliber 945, astronomical complications are complemented by a minute repeater, and this is the king of all complications - hence the price of this model in a white gold case is truly royal.

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Split-Seconds Monopusher Chronograph, $1

Les Cabinotiers is a specialty division of Vacheron Constantin that produces unique and super complicated timepieces. At Watches & Wonders 2022, Les Cabinotiers presented a new, highly complex and unique (only 1 piece will be produced) Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Split-Seconds Monopusher Chronograph. If we proceed from the fact that each word of this (unique, including in its length) name reflects many days of painstaking work of craftsmen and engineers, then the high cost seems justified, you must agree.

As usual, the new Les Cabinotiers has an unusual dial layout. Hours and minutes are displayed on a sub-dial at 9 o'clock, a separate sub-dial for the current seconds at 6 o'clock, and a chronograph minute counter (30-second) at 2 o'clock. The repeater slider is on the right side of the case (its size is 45mm x 16,4mm) and on the right there are two pushers for the chronograph - at 2 o'clock for start, stop and reset and at 4 o'clock for the split chronograph function.

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The split chronograph has two superimposed second hands. Activating the function stops one hand while the other continues to run, allowing two successive intervals to be accurately timed.

The small second hand at 6 o'clock follows the movement of the tourbillon, which is open for observation along with the components of the striking mechanism from the back of the case, through a transparent cover.

The movement uses the in-house caliber Vacheron 2757, and the whole movement, all its parts are handcrafted to the highest standards – according to Vacheron Constantin, about two-thirds of the total time required to make a watch is spent on finishing the 698 caliber components.

The official press release does not list the price of the unique Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Split-Seconds Monopusher Chronograph, but we put in a little effort and found out that it costs $1. What do you think, Elon Musk?

Van Cleef & Arpels Rêveries de Berylline Automaton, price on request

At an event called "Hours and Miracles", as we all understand, there should be not only watches, but also miracles. The Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry house has always had a very creative approach to watch mechanics - the so-called "poetic complications" in Van Cleef & Arpels wristwatches leave no one indifferent, and it does not matter whether you can afford these romantic pieces or not. This year, there were countless “miracles” at the brand’s stand, let’s focus on one such mechanical masterpiece - you can’t put it on your hand, but time will tell, we don’t ask about the cost, but we deliberately include it in our review, we’re sure, not in vain. Meet the automaton Rêveries de Berylline.

The automaton, or automaton, Rêveries de Berylline, like all other automatons, is, in fact, a mechanical robot - at the will of the owner, the device sets in motion and performs a given program. Rêveries de Berylline is a flower (about 30 cm high) that comes to life, opening its petals, and we see a hummingbird ready to fly. The wings of the bird realistically spread out and move in a natural rhythm for a few moments. Then the hummingbird returns to its place in the center of the corolla, which simultaneously closes all its petals around the bird, hiding it from prying eyes.

All this is accompanied by the sounds of music specially created for the machine, we read the time from the ring at the base of the “toy”.

Video with a working flower Van Cleef & Arpels Rêveries de Berylline, we highly recommend watching - miracles, and nothing more:

Of course, this selection of the most expensive models presented at the Watches & Wonders exhibition cannot be taken seriously as any kind of "analytical" material. The trends of modern watchmaking, which this important event demonstrated, in a different way: for example, the power reserve continues to increase, repeater watches rule the roost in super complex ones, skeleton mechanisms and tourbillons are also held in high esteem ... Wait, but the watches of this review are just about this - and this means that we are in a trend. Stay with us, it will be interesting!




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