We are all thrill-seekers. The desire for an uplifting and inspiring experience — whether a ride on a rollercoaster, the adrenaline rush of skydiving, a sensational cold Atlantic swim or the simple emotional fix of a new lipstick — makes us unique among all species. These ignite a “superpower” high for those living their best lives and are instant cures on a bad-hair day.
In an era marked by widespread anxiety and uncertainty, there is an even greater quest to seek out experiences that bring us joy, a sense of adventure and wonder, which is at the centre of what the recent Wunderman Thompson report “The Age of Re-Enchantment” calls a “yearning for a better life”. This yearning sometimes involves turning back the clock, stimulating the exponential rise of interest in vintage timepieces in a nostalgic turn to a less complex time and slower pace. This is fuelling the prominent neo-vintage trend in watchmaking but is also why there has been strong interest from the younger generation in small mechanical wonders, print-edition books, vinyl, classic cars, IRL gatherings, and a return to nature.
Yes, this period may call for sensibility and discretion but we are also desperate for a playful, optimistic deviation from our maladies. Watchmakers have certainly heeded the call.
Neo-vintage styling brings us smaller, gender-neutral sizing, a less-is-more timeless attitude, and practicality, with some stand-out examples being the Tudor Black Bay 54, TAG Heuer Carrera, Panerai Radiomir Quaranta gold, Timex Giorgio Galli, Tissot PRX, and a refresh of the Gérald Genta-designed IWC Ingenieur SL. This trend also draws inspiration from the disruptive designs of the 1970s and early 1980s with cushion-shaped cases, rounded square designs, and sporty integrated bracelets, as demonstrated by the Hermès H08, Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport, Angelus Chronodate Titanium, Hublot Square Bang, Raymond Weil Freelancer, Bell & Ross BR-X5,and Swatch Bioceramic What If?, to name a few.
Older form-watch icons such as the Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) Reverso and Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 are refined and brought up to date with modern movements and materials in new editions that continue to captivate a new generation, while a squadron of pilots’ watches from IWC, Zenith, and Breitling encourage us to take off on flights of fancy and explore bucket-list territories.
Colour, pattern and finishes
Brands are on a roll this year, re-enchanting us with bright colours and patterns, from the avant-garde Chanel J12 Cybernetic to the bold, child-like pops of energy in the “effervescent” Rolex Oyster Perpetual bubble and puzzle dials, Beauregarde Lili Candy Rose, and Czapek & Cie Antarctique S Sashiko Pink Lotus.
Then there are the multiple tints and tones of the growing green movement, including the smile-inducing Oris ProPilot X Kermit, the emerald Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, and Patek Philippe’s khaki Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph. There are also plenty of seasonal sparkles from various métiers d’art, with masterful gem-setting and decorated dials and cases in the Cartier Clash [Un]limited and Chopard’s Haute Joaillerie pieces, the Art Deco styling of the JLC Reverso One Precious Colours, and the more subtle Grand Seiko Master Collection.
Innovation is in the DNA of the industry, which has been around since the 1600s. Each year, new designs, complications, and materials are delightful proof of the creatives and engineers passionately at work. Innovation in materials sees further use of ceramics and recycled materials, as well as the introduction of lab-grown diamonds.
Then there’s the return of lightweight materials, such as the aluminium and fibreglass-based composites featured in the updated Hermès H08 using aluminised fibreglass and slate powder and the Hublot Big Bang Integrated Tourbillon Full Carbon in texalium. Ceramics and steel still dominate, but there is also a noticeable adoption of high-performance, lightweight titanium from brands such as Czapek, Grand Seiko, Hublot, and Rolex.
Technical prowess is presented in the Montblanc 1858 The Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition, Arnold & Son “Dial-Side True Beat” 42, Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph, Ulysse Nardin Freak One, the hi-beat Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection Tentagraph, and one of the most elegant sports watches — A. Lange & Söhne’s Odysseus Chronograph.
The retrograde display has found multiple applications, as noted in particular with the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Date Openface and Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date, the charming Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Féerie Or Rose, Hublot MP-13 Tourbillon Bi-Axis Retrograde, Hautlence Linear Series 2 with retrograde jumping hour, and colour-changing Chronoswiss Delphis Paraiba.
Open dials reveal the magical heart of watchmaking in full view with the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Date Openface, Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton, Roger Dubuis Excalibur Blacklight Spin-Stone Monobalancier, and Cartier Santos Skeleton.
Others remain more discreet with novelties such as the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Xiali Calendar and new platinum A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar, leaving the exceptional work of their complications to the imagination.
Sustainability is the key to a better life, prioritising values and the ethics of care for others and our planet. There is an encouraging commitment to transparency with circular manufacturing processes. Panerai has expanded its use of eSteel and Chopard, a pioneer of sustainable luxury, introduced Lucent Steel, an alloy made from 70% recycled stainless steel — first in its slim-cased Chopard Alpine Eagle 41 XPS and to all its stainless-steel watches by year-end. Several projects established over the past few years, such as the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 launched by Cartier and Kering in 2021, have made inroads through partnerships with external experts. The growing membership, which includes A. Lange & Söhne, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Panerai, Piaget, Chanel Horlogerie Joaillerie, Montblanc, and Swarovski, highlights how a proactive and collaborative approach can achieve a paradigm shift at scale.
Breitling’s 2023 Sustainability Report demonstrates a new corporate culture of care that reaches beyond customers to include social impact along the value chain through direct engagement with artisanal and small-scale miners. Zenith Defy Extreme E’s signature “Vital Green” communicates “awareness and action on climate change” and is made from carbon fibre and recycled parts from the electric SUV off-road race event. For even more of an emotion-inducing rush, try Hublot’s Big Bang Unico Nespresso Origin, made from recycled Nespresso capsules and coffee grounds.
• From the 2023/2024 edition of Wanted Watches, Jewellery and Luxury.