I am just back from Geneva’s recently-concluded Watches and Wonders 2023, which made a full comeback after the lockdown-induced break — and it is evident that the luxe watch industry is exploring new avenues of artistic expression.
The numbers surpassed expectations, registering 43,000 visitors compared to 22,000 last year and 23,000 in 2019 (before COVID-19). This year, the fair saw the participation of 49 luxury brands, including the likes of Patek Philippe, Rolex, LVMH Group, Richemont Group, and many independents. The two open-to-public days on Saturday and Sunday were fully sold out, echoing the rise of interest in luxury.
This being the first piece on this year’s edition of the biggest watch fair in the world, I would like to focus on brands that stood out for their creativity, exclusivity, craftsmanship, and storytelling. The world is going through a new lease of life post Covid break and some brands clearly wanted to push the boundaries of traditional design and concepts.
Rolex Day-Date 36
No one could expect Rolex to get this creative with their expressions the way they did with one of their icons, the Day-Date 36. No wonder their joyful jigsaw puzzle dial was the headlining act at the event.
By displaying a new emotion each day, the watch matches the spontaneity of the wearer’s changing moods. Available in three references in 18ct yellow, white, and Everose gold, these watches display, at the arc-shaped aperture at 12 o’clock, an inspirational word like ‘Happy’, ‘Gratitude’, ‘Eternity’, ‘Peace’, ‘Faith’, ‘Love’ and ‘Hope’. The window at 3 o’clock reveals an exclusive emoji every day of the month instead of the traditional date.
Not to replace craftsmanship with only fun elements, the brand uses champlevé enamelling to bring a jigsaw puzzle with turquoise blue, red, fuchsia, orange, green and yellow on the dial alive, adding depth and intensity. The hours are marked by 10 baguette-cut sapphires in six different hues set matched with the main colour of the dial — turquoise blue on the 18ct yellow gold and 18ct white gold versions, and orange on the 18ct Everose gold.
The new Day-Date 36 is powered by Rolex’s robust calibre 3255 and comes with the Superlative Chronometer certification, which ensures excellent performance on the wrist.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph
Reverso, born in the polo fields of Rajasthan in 1931, was one of the first wristwatches developed specifically for sport with its ingenious swivelling case designed to protect it when worn during a game of polo.
In 2023, the new Reverso Tribute Chronograph pays tribute to the Reverso’s roots with the sporting complication of a chronograph. Drawing inspiration from the first Reverso Chronograph of 1996, the new Calibre 860 unites a chronograph with a double-sided display of the time.
The front dial ticks all the marks of the Reverso Tribute line codes, with its baton hour markers, Dauphine hands and peripheral chemin de fer minutes track. The discreet elegance of the sunray-brushed surface gives no hint of the mechanical complexity that lies within, other than the presence of chronograph pushers on either side of the winding crown. The dial is entirely skeletonised, the bridges are decorated with Côtes de Genève as the symbol of the highest quality finish, and the chronograph seconds and minute tracks are highlighted in black to maximise legibility.
The new Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 860, a fully integrated hand-wound chronograph movement is conceived and made in the Vallée de Joux. Beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour, Calibre 860 incorporates a column wheel chronograph with a horizontal clutch, instead of a regular vertical clutch to reduce the overall thickness of the movement. The movement does the complex job of displaying hours and minutes on both, the front and reverse dials.
The two straps offered with each watch (canvas and leather) are designed by the celebrated Argentinian polo bootmaker Casa Fagliano, symbolising sporty sophistication while reconnecting the Reverso to its roots in the world of polo.
IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40
IWC Schaffhausen has introduced the Ingenieur Automatic 40 keeping in line with the philosophy of focussing on one collection every year. The collection has four references — three in stainless steel and one in titanium.
The Ingenieur Automatic 40 is powered by the IWC-manufactured 32111 calibre with a power reserve of an astonishing 120 hours. All new models feature soft-iron inner cases to protect the movements from magnetic fields and are water-resistant to 10 bars.
Of the three models of the Ingenieur Automatic 40 in stainless steel, the Aqua dial steals the show. It features rhodium-plated hands and appliques, an integrated stainless steel bracelet with polished centre links, and a butterfly folding clasp. The case, bezel, and bracelet are finished using a combination of polished and satin-finished surfaces. In addition, a newly designed crown protection further underscores the sporty character of the timepiece.
Since its creation in 1912, the Baignoire watch has seen multiple incarnations. In a new alignment of proportions this year, the dial and its signature Roman numerals are crowned with a rich gold ribbon.
Cartier explores Baignoire’s signature oval dial and transposes it into a bezel to be slipped as close to the wrist as possible, almost pushing the watch as a piece of jewellery. Whether in rose gold, yellow gold, or fully paved, the new Baignoire celebrates the purity of line, the accuracy of shape, precise proportions, and precious details.
Panerai Radiomir PAM01349
The Panerai family has been crafting precision instruments to accompany the Italian military in their exploits for over a century now. At the start of the 20th century, when Officine Panerai was commissioned by the Royal Italian Navy to supply high-precision instruments, the patented Radiomir was created in 1916, a radium-based substance that allows for ‘self-luminous sights for launching torpedoes at night and for firing weapons in general’. Thus the legend of Radiomir became a part of many ground-breaking missions of the Italian Navy.
In 2023, Panerai introduces for the first time ever a California dial that is crafted in 45mm, and not in the conventional 47mm, while its colour in green makes the watch a collector’s piece. The Panerai California Dial is characterised by alternating Roman and Arabic numerals, bar indexes, and a minute track. The hours 10, 11, 1, and 2 are marked with Roman numerals, while 4, 5, 7, and 8 are marked with Arabic numerals, resulting in a dial that is distinctive as it’s rare. The case is set in Brunito eSteelTM — the watch in a characteristic antiquated look appeals to collectors looking for authenticity and storied timepieces.