Just as we got over our jetlag, Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023 came to an end: a mental convention where all the world’s biggest watchmakers unveiled their hottest releases for the year. Bloody hell, what a week.
This year’s edition of the fair was its biggest yet, with a record-breaking 48 brands exhibiting at the cavernous Palexpo convention centre… Not to mention the myriad of other brands exhibiting in hotel rooms and boutiques throughout Geneva.
We’ve already shared our 5 favourite releases from the fair (as well as covered dozens of other hot items from popular brands) but we couldn’t help but highlight a few more watches that you might have missed during all the noise.
From the subtle to the superfluous, here’s the ‘best of the rest’ from Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023.
In this Watches & Wonders 2023 story…
A. Lange & Söhne
The German masters of refined watchmaking excited watch fans in Geneva with their new Odysseus Chronograph: the first automatic chronograph they’ve ever produced. And it’s in steel! And it’s on a bracelet! And it’s an Odysseus! Needless to say, there was a lot of hype around this one.
Its new L156.1 Datomatic calibre also has quite a novel way of recording elapsed time. Like a double chronograph (a type of watch Lange is famous for), it’s got two chronograph hands: a red one to track seconds and a lozenge-tipped silver one to track minutes.
This layout has two advantages: firstly, it means you don’t need subdials, so it maintains the purity of the Odysseus’ dial design, with its large day and date windows and small seconds indicator. Secondly, it allows the chronograph to record up to 60 minutes, compared to the standard 30 minutes most chronos go up to.
In short, it’s a very Lange take on a sports watch that both innovates and delights. A limited edition of only 100 pieces, we suspect the chance of actually seeing one in the wild is fairly slim…
A watch that’s similarly impressive but one you’re much more likely to be able to buy (despite its high watchmaking credentials) is the new Classic Tourbillon Manufacture in rose gold from Frederique Constant.
Frederique Constant, which made its first Watches & Wonders appearance this year, has long been one of the best-value Swiss watch brands on the market that constantly punches above its weight when it comes to both quality and refinement. This new Classic Tourbillon Manufacture is no exception.
Developed entirely in-house and hand-assembled in its manufacture, Frederique Constant has pulled out all the stops on this one. Not only is it housed in luxurious 18ct rose gold, but they’ve spared no expense finishing the watch: bevelling, beading, perlage, straight-grained flanks and mirror polishing abound. The tourbillon window at 6 o’clock is huge – it’s all about the tourbillon here.
For around AU$40,000, it’s hardly cheap… But we can’t think of any other Swiss watchmaker who’s out here making rose gold in-house tourbillons for that sort of money. This might be one for the connoisseurs, but we lift our hats to Frederique Constant regardless.
There was a lot going on at Hublot this year at Watches & Wonders – and that was just the crowds of influencers trying to have a go at the Takashi Murakami claw prize machine up the back of the booth. There was also a bunch of new Square Bangs, as well as a speccy full-carbon take on the Big Bang Tourbillon.
Our favourite release, however, was the MP-13 Tourbillon Bi-Axis Retrograde, the first edition in the new MP-13 model family, which features a novel time-telling mechanism with both a retrograde hours and minutes display housed in a unique titanium case.
Its eye-catching double-axis tourbillon, which is put fully on display thanks to the opened-up case and crystal at 6 o’clock, completes a full rotation every minute on one axis, and every 30 seconds on the other. Despite having such a power-hungry complication, the MP-13 still boasts a 4-day power reserve.
Horologically impressive, it’s a real feast for the eyes – but at AU$220,000, it’ll eat through your wallet, too.
Montblanc’s most eye-catching release this year was a new take on their Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph, which now comes in an interesting ‘distressed steel’ case and darker, more high-tech-looking colour scheme.
This unconventional chronograph features a skeletonised and ‘flipped’ movement that allows you to observe the activation of the chronograph from the dial side. It’s at once both a very traditional and very avant-garde piece, with traditional features like its cathedral hands and old-school complication contrasting with its dramatic dial and huge amounts of Super-LumiNova.
New Aquanauts? Snore. The watch that we found most interesting from Patek Philippe at Watches & Wonders was the Calatrava Travel Time, which features a fun yet characteristically elegant way of tracking the time in two different time zones.
The astute might have noticed something funny about its dial: it’s got a 24-hour track instead of a 12-hour track: 12 o’clock is still 12 o’clock but then 3 o’clock is 18 o’clock and so on. Two hour hands (one lume-filled, one skeletonised) track the two different time zones, and instead of using pushers to adjust the dual-time zone display, this Calatrava features a new, patented three-position crown.
An elegantly finished ultra-thin micro-rotor movement can be observed through a sapphire caseback, and the entire thing is housed in an 18ct rose gold case with a blue nubuck strap to match its deep blue dial. It’s quirky, stylish and sumptuous all at once.
The standout from Piaget this year was this jewelled-up Polo Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin – and what a perpetual calendar. A white gold case, blue obsidian dial and a bezel set with 56 brilliant-cut sapphires make this take on the Polo particularly baller.
What’s interesting is that it comes with two straps: an alligator leather strap and a rubber strap. We’d opt to rock it on the latter: not only is Piaget’s rubber strap arguably the best in the biz, but there’s just something kinda fun about matching a fancy watch with a rubber strap.
I’ve never been a big fan of Ulysse Nardin’s outlandish Freak watches but the new Freak ONE does the impossible: make a Freak somewhat understated.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Freak concept, the entire gear train of the Freak ONE (which features a flying tourbillon) rotates and serves as the minute hand, with a floating ‘mystery’ hand serving as the hour indicator. You’ll also notice that it has no crown: instead, you unlock and twist the bezel to change the time.
Recent Freak models, which have completely eschewed hour indicators, have made it hard to tell the time, but the Freak ONE’s more oblique, lume-tipped hands and 12, 3, 6 and 9 indicators make it a much more practical (and dare I say more aesthetically pleasing) proposition. It also makes it less garish. This is a Freak I’d actually buy… Although I’m not sure I’d want to wear a watch that says ‘Freak’ on its case.
Vacheron Constantin didn’t have anything that quite matched the hype of the Historiques 222 they released at Watches & Wonders last year, but the ‘Holy Trinity’ brand still had plenty to offer for watch nuts in Geneva.
The big release for them this year is a new moonphase variant of the ever-popular Overseas. The moonphase is the brand’s signature complication, so to see it finally appear on their most famous watch is big news. A large, traditional moonphase window takes pride of place at 6 o’clock while a large retrograde date display balances the dial at 12 o’clock.
I’m not sure if Vacheron has changed the way they make their blue dials for the Overseas, but the amount of varnish on top of that Sunday finish makes it almost look enamelled at some angles. Very tasty.
Van Cleef & Arpels
Last but not least we have Van Cleef & Arpels, who didn’t release any men’s models at Watches & Wonders this year, but there was still plenty to get excited about within their cavernous, jungle-inspired booth.
We really liked this playful Ludo Secret watch, which is the latest in a long line of secret watches from the famed maison. Squeezing either side of the watch’s jewel-encrusted case (pink sapphires or diamonds, depending on the variant) reveals a tiny guilloché white mother-of-pearl dial. Cute.