It’s that time of year again; the time when the most influential watch brands gather and show their new models to the world. This year, however, it’s not just the global press attending, but also the public. On April 1st and 2nd, Watches & Wonders will be opening its doors to a wider audience for the first time.
The fair, or Salon, if you like, will play host to no fewer than 48 watch brands this year. But the city of Geneva also gets involved in Watches & Wonders. A select group of watchmaking boutiques on Rue du Rhône and Rues Basses will open their doors and offer a rare look into their craftsmanship and skills.
Watches & Wonders 2023 is more than just a trade show, it’s a full-blown experience that can be enjoyed in person or online via the watchesandwonders.com platform. So, what are we going to see this year?
More Titanium Watches
Titanium enjoyed some extra attention in 2022. The material is highly resistant to corrosion in seawater and 30-40% lighter than stainless steel. Due to its strength and light weight, titanium is widely used in aerospace engineering and medical devices. Not only did A. Lange & Söhne introduce a titanium limited edition of their celebrated Odysseus in 2022, but Rolex also introduced the massive 50-mm Deepsea Challenge in RLX titanium. We may see more watches in this lightweight yet robust material during this year’s Salon.
Obviously, I’m just guessing here. Now, here’s what I’d like to see from some of the exhibiting brands.
Many watch enthusiasts, myself included, would love to see an all-steel version of the Vacheron Constantin 222 that was re-released in gold last year, but Vacheron Constantin is much more than just the 222 and Overseas. While the latter has been in high demand since the early days of Covid, and seems to be a driver of interest in the esteemed manufacturer, the neighboring FiftySix collection feels incomplete. This series was launched during difficult times in 2018, and the current lineup offers time-only, complete calendar, day-date with a power reserve indicator, and luxurious tourbillon options – but no chronograph. Therefore, I’d love to see a FiftySix chronograph fitted with the same caliber 5200 found in the Overseas Chronograph. And while we’re at it, make it 40 mm or less – overwhelming applause is likely to follow.
I always read José Pereztroika‘s posts on watches with great interest. He knows more than most, and reading through his write-up on a rare “dot dial” Radiomir made me lust after a modern version of this beauty; we’re talking about the 47-mm Radiomir with a rare “dot dial” from around 1938. This unusual dial layout has yet to be revived by Panerai in modern times and, thus, only has a place in the auction catalogs and history books.
Interestingly enough, a Radiomir with a dot dial appeared on Chrono24 some years ago. I asked José about his thoughts on this particular Panerai Radiomir. As many of you know, Panerai traditionally made military watches, so many facts are unavailable to the civilian public. “I think this dial was made to add precision. However, it did not work underwater because it was too bright and had too much going on,” says Perez, a scholar of diving watches and vintage Panerai watches especially. “There is also a Luminor version of the ‘dot’ from the 1960s,” Perez says, which only adds to my wish to see a Radiomir with this special dial layout released this year.
Cartier already launched a revised version of the 1996 Tank Française in January of this year, so I don’t expect anything revolutionary from that line. On a personal note, however, I’d love to see a new version of the Tank Cintrée. This watch was initially launched in 1921, but has either been made-to-order or available as a limited edition ever since, making the Cintrée a very special timepiece from the French Maison. Cartier launched a limited edition of 150 examples in 2021 to mark the 100th anniversary of this slim version of the Tank. The release occurred during Covid and was supposedly only offered directly to VIPs or notable Cartier collectors.
I know that the Cintrée isn’t celebrating an anniversary this year, but I would nevertheless love to see a less limited version of this iconic Tank. And while we’re at it, make it in platinum as a gentle and expensive reminder that the Cartier Cintrée is a luxury timepiece through and through. After all, none of us really needs a mechanical watch, but as Oscar Wilde wisely put it, “Let me be surrounded by luxury, I can do without the necessities!”
Tudor has been on a roll these past few years. They have launched one successful model after another, including the slim yet rugged Pelagos FXD in titanium and the more recent and near-perfect Pelagos 39. Both are absolutely stunning, in part because they do not come with a date function.
While a date is a very useful complication, more often than not, a date window doesn’t contribute to a pleasing dial layout. With that sentiment in mind, I’d like to see the Black Bay Ceramic in a 39-mm size. I have long considered getting a Black Bay Ceramic, but am not overly drawn to the 41-mm case and 14.1-mm thickness. The Pelagos 39 has a more slender profile of 11.8 mm, making it more comfortable for daily wear.
Unlike relative Rolex and their Submariner with water resistance to 300 m (984 ft), Tudor favors a depth rating of “only” 200 m (656 ft), but that’s plenty for a daily diver that spends most of its time at an office desk anyway, bar the occasional swim in the public pool, of course.
As a big titanium fan, I’ve been pleased to see an increasing number of watches released in this lightweight material. In 2021, Chopard surprised us with a 250-piece limited edition 8 Hz high-frequency Alpine Eagle Cadence in titanium. This was an exciting watch, both due to the material used for the watch and movement itself, and the very appealing dial layout with stick indices at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Usually, the Alpine Eagle features Roman numerals in these positions, as well as at 12 o’clock, resulting in a cluttered dial layout (in my very humble opinion).
I’d love to see a black dial version of the titanium Alpine Eagle mentioned above with a clean dial featuring a single 12 Roman numeral. Also, the dial would look better without the arrow-shaped logo above the 6. I can make do with a 4 Hz frequency movement inside the 41-mm case, but I’d be all over it if Chopard introduced the Alpine Eagle in a 40-mm case; with or without a Roman numeral dial and regardless of material.
The esteemed Maison of exquisite horology, Jaeger-LeCoultre, turns 190 years old in 2023. Of course, this cannot be ignored, as Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the most important manufacturers in the industry. Earlier this year, JLC introduced the Collectibles, a series of curated watches from the extensive JLC museum that will be offered for purchase pre-owned. This is a new program for collectors and enthusiasts who wish to acquire a piece of history from La Grande Maison. Among the first watches offered are fine examples of an early Reverso, as well as a Geophysic, Memovox Parking, Master Mariner Deep Sea, and Shark Deep Sea. Every watch is disassembled, controlled, and fully reassembled by the master watchmakers in the manufacture’s dedicated restoration workshop.
Every Collectibles timepiece is offered with an extract from the Jaeger-LeCoultre archives, a new watch strap, and a complimentary copy of The Collectibles coffee table book. Jumping on the pre-owned wagon is nothing new. Rolex, Longines, and Oris already offer pre-owned watches, and Linde Werdelin has been doing so for years already, but curated pre-owned is something novel.
With the pre-owned program already up and running, what can we expect from La Grande Maison during Watches & Wonders? I’d like to see more models from the sporty Polaris collection. In 2022, the Polaris collection saw the addition of a stunning perpetual calendar in steel and one in pink gold that left onlookers in awe. But how does a Polaris tourbillon sound? Sexy, right? That would be the epitome of a watch from the Maison – sporty yet complicated, contemporary yet classic, somewhat large in diameter yet perfect on the wrist.