Reinforcing the dreams, emotions and the connection we have to time and timepieces, there’s true magic in a physical gathering. After two years of digital, this year’s Watches & Wonders in Geneva was a reminder that nothing can replace or replicate the joy of meeting people in person and experiencing a watch on your wrist. The appreciation of quality materials and finishes of a watch, its weight and finer detailing, and its heartbeat can never be replaced by an NFT. While the diary filled up fast with presentation meetings and formal interviews, it was often the impromptu in-between encounters with complete strangers where I found the most insights.
Luxury is not about fleeting trends, but the industry is certainly responsible for establishing a few. Innovation and creativity are at the heart of the watch industry and even in times that call for a little austerity and conscious consumption, there is ongoing refinement, fresh ideas, and of course, fantasy. There was plenty to highlight the industry’s great prowess as innovators and the purveyors of dreams. From elegant to bold statements in dial designs or the mechanical wonder of high complications, brands captured the renewed energy and that of the approaching summer, when it is hoped their products will be worn in full view.
Sustainability was definitely present on the agenda of the last two years of virtual fairs, but it was clear this year that the time for real action from the industry had arrived. There is something about meeting face-to-face that always seals a deal. From new initiatives to innovation and design, transparency, ethical sourcing and circularity, all panel discussions at W&W2022 addressed the pressing social-ecological crisis, while revealing the promise of a more “sustainable luxury” future.
This was evidenced in the global Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030, rethinking packaging and technology’s role in certification processes to ensure chain-of-custody in ethical materials sourcing. Recycled or upcycled materials might have low perceived value or be perceived as less noble than pure platinum or gold, but through creativity and storytelling, the industry can interpret what makes these interesting and desirable. Look at Panerai’s eSteel for example where there is no compromise on quality. The metaverse also looks set to play a role in the post-pandemic industry trying to bounce back from revenue declines of 25% to 30%, according to McKinsey estimates. Key elements are collaboration, accountability, transparency, trust and common goals in a collective effort to tackle environmental and social issues implemented at scale. This was also seen in IWC’s ‘reusable’ booth conceived by architect Hani Rashid, and the general absence of wasteful printed materials and gifting. Including a stop-over in Zurich to board the Navitimer connector to Geneva, Breitling even offset my 1,212kg portion of carbon emissions from the flights through Swiss Air’s Compensaid programme.
A most welcome newcomer to the fair, Grand Seiko, set the perfect beat with its captivating Constant-force Tourbillon, the brand’s first mechanical high complication and a first for horology. There were bedazzling crystal pieces at Chanel (Chanel J12 X-ray Red Edition) and Hublot and the jaw-dropping full carbon and lab-grown diamond Carrera Plasma at TAG Heuer truly tapping into its avant-garde side. Chopard rang out its celebration of 25 years of L.U.C manufacture with a threesome including the magical Full Strike Sapphire. This minute repeater featuring a translucent sapphire case offers an unobstructed view of one of Chopard’s most sophisticated calibres, the 533-part L.U.C 08.01-L movement that sounds out with “crystal clarity” the hours, quarters and minutes on transparent sapphire crystal gongs. Jaeger LeCoultre brought a say to everyone’s dial with its Rendez-Vous Dazzling Star and its little shooting star that appears at random throughout the day. Patek Philippe’s gorgeous Annual Calendar Travel Time Ref. 5326G features a textured dial inspired by vintage camera cases. A side event, but no less of a show, Bulgari celebrated 10th anniversary of its architecture-inspired Octo collection, which has already won over 60 awards.
With travel back on the agenda, you have the option to travel back in time or ahead on a new solo adventure. As the world slowly opens up again and we can adventure beyond the backyard, there are new Pilot’s, world timers, and GMT novelties to accompany us as we take flight on our journeys near or far. Whether it’s a dream destinations or an alternative universe, it’s time to fulfil those long-harboured dreams of escapism. Look no further than the IWC Pilots Top Gun Chronograph Woodlands ceramic (also for Green), the updated Rolex AirKing, the elegant Parmigiani Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante 40mm, the Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT, and the Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Spring Drive GMT, and Oris ProPilotXCalibre400 (also for blue dials)
Whether just more discrete and practical, as called for by our moment in our history, or influenced by secondary-market growth in vintage watches, there’s a notable downsizing in new releases. This runs parallel to the growing interest from female consumers in mechanical watches and a shift to unisex sizing and styles to suit all. The Zenith Chronometer Open 39.5mm is a perfect example. Even brands like Hublot and Panerai known for making bolder statements have downsized in their latest novelties.
Green with envy
Gradient and fumé, textured and engraved, brands have ventured deeper into an Amazon of greens expanding on a trend established last year for dials, bezels, case materials and straps. The most expressive this year is the H.Moser Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept Lime Green fumé dial but glorious green can be found in:
The rise of the Reds
Consumer trends prove that in tough times the perfect lip can lift the spirits — a weapon to boost your confidence — and there was just enough of Coco Chanel’s favourite lipstick colour to hint at the rise of red, which made a positive appearance at Cartier (of course) particularly in the Chinese inspired Privé Tank Chinoise (Quality Time main) and Tank Louis Cartier, the B&M Classima, and Chanel Boyfriend Skeleton.
A Blues note
Nevertheless, this year revealed just how versatile ever-popular blue can be. Et voilà, in magnificent dials presented in smoky or astral gradients, icy glacial lode, aventurine and bursts of delicate Azzurro blossoms. Memorable examples include:
New normal — sports luxe
Reflecting our contemporary lifestyles and adapting to the new normal, the luxury sports segment continues to grow with plenty of covetable chic releases joining an already exciting line-up of unique designs. Many take their inspiration from the 1970s with a contemporary turn on the rule-breaking watch styles of that era, quickly filling the gap that a certain watch may have left in the market. From noble metals to practical stainless steel, elegantly integrated bracelets, unique dials and sleek profiles, there are exclusive offerings and more accessible everyday wearers among the spread this year that appears to be greater than ever before.
• From the May edition of Wanted, 2022.