The world’s foremost luxury watch fair, the 29th edition of SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie), which is underway in Geneva, offers some interesting insights into the world of luxury horology.
It reinforces the fact that marque horology brands prefer the more traditional offline method of selling handcrafted beauties (going by ambitious plans of retail stores that are being unveiled at the fair) rather than the ecommerce route.
Buying watches is the ultimate luxury experience that can only be recreated in a brand’s experiential stores, or so goes the thinking. More significant is the fact that new ideas in the watch industry, which have been floating around the market for a couple of years, are now getting entrenched.
Dials as Colour Canvases
Painted dials have always been restricted to limited editions. In 2019, however, R&D with dials is going mainstream and this doesn’t just include conventional hand-painted exquisiteness. The smoked salmon pink dial of the retro Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph (a doctor’s watch that can read your blood pressure) is an example.
A Lange & Sohne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon
Audemars Piguet’s ‘Royal Oak Jumbo Extra Flat’ and A Lange & Sohne’s ‘Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon’ share the salmon pink hue. The blue guilloche (engraved) dial of Jaeger le Coultre’s new collection; the blue-on-blue piece in Audemars Piguet’s 11.59 collection with deep-blue printed argenté dial that has a recess, a hinged cuvette with an engraving of Lange’s headquarters and a hand-engraved balance cock with blued lines; as well as Vacheron Constantin’s elegant deep blue Patrimony dress watch, are indicative of the coloured dial trend.
A Lange & Sohne salmon pink
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere’s ‘khaki’ green dial is paired with a green canvas strap or a tan brown leather strap, which broadens its sartorial appeal. But it is left to Swiss watchmaking brand Richard Mille — famous for brightly coloured watches — to catapult this trend to new heights with their Bonbon collection. The technicolor watches have a dial with a range of colours referenced from cotton candy and sugary fruit gummies. Pieces from the new Bonbon collection start at $122,000.
Montblanc khaki green watches
Ulysse Nardin is ready to introduce its limited edition erotic watches to a bigger market but in far more understated versions. The 10 erotic watches unveiled at SIHH display the brand’s long-standing tradition of exceptional erotic watches with moving Jacquemarts (animated, mechanised wood or metal figures that strike the hours on a bell with a hammer) on the dial.
Ulysse Nardin mermaid watch
They are hand-painted by Italian erotic comic book artist Milo Manara and are inspired by a mythical story of a mermaid and a pretty young woman who encounter each other underwater. Their love story has a very unusual witness: a shark, who appears on some of the dials.
Blast from the Past
‘Inspired by nature’ is a trend that is seeing many takers, among them Montblanc, a brand known to be spot on with inspirations drawn from a larger social-political context, as issues of sustainability and preservation of natural resources take centre-stage. Their ‘1858 collection’ is inspired by the adventurous world of mountain exploration and is a reinterpretation of the old Minerva pocket watches from the 1920s and the 1930s. It combines a vintage-looking bronze case — a natural element that changes over time — and in-house complications.
Montblanc 1848 collection
Cartier announced the re-release of its Tonneau watch in platinum and pink gold. They looped back 113 years into the past and returned with the Cartier Tonneau, which was originally released in 1906.
Cartier Tonneau watch
Pilot and Diver Watches
This year, IWC Schaffhausen will release a series of pilot watches in its Spitfire family, among them the ‘The Longest Flight’ limited edition of 250 timepieces. The edition has been designed for pilots Steve Boultbee Brooks and Matt Jones, founders of England-based Boultbee Flight Academy, who will make aviation history with the first round-the-world flight in a restored Silver Spitfire in summer 2019, to achieve the distinction of being the world’s longest flight.
IWC pilot watch copy
The watch marries the patented timezoner mechanism with an IWC-manufactured automatic movement. It can be set in a different time zone by a simple rotational movement of the bezel. The hour hand, the 24-hour display and the date rotate automatically at the same time. The black dial, stainless steel case and textile green strap ensure that the technical vibe holds strong.
Panerai has dedicated the year to nautical watches. But the new diver watches have fashioned plastic straps, which feel more like textile and have been created entirely from used plastic bottles (each strap reusing three bottles worth of recycled plastic). Variants include the ‘Marina Militare’ which is a tribute to their long-standing affiliation with the Italian Navy, and has a new material called BMG-TECH, made of aluminum, titanium, nickel and copper, making it impervious to corrosion.
Some watchmakers are wearing their politically correct beliefs on their sleeves by packaging a few of their timepieces as ‘unisex’ and rejecting gender labels. Among them is Audemars Piguet’s newest Code 11.59 collection, with five complications and three new calibers: a self-winding contraption with seconds and date indicators, an integrated column wheel chronograph with flyback function and a self-winding flying tourbillon.
Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony dress watch
The new caliber 4302, an automatic time-and-date movement, has a dedicated 22k gold winding rotor and a 70-hour power reserve. The most magical element of this collection is the rose-gold perpetual calendar, featuring a truly magical aventurine dial recalling a starlit sky.
The process of manufacturing aventurine glass originated in 17th century Venice, a material often used on ladies’ watches. Today, the glass is obtained by introducing black copper oxide and cobalt during the cooling phase, which colours the glass in blue and produces a constellation of mineral particles.
Richard Mille Bon Bon
Cartier has expanded its square-dialed Santos collection into a unisex range with an updated Santos-Dumont in two-tone pink gold and stainless steel and all-pink gold. Inspired by the original 1904 design, it incorporates a slimline, high-efficiency quartz movement, which allows for a thinner, more comfortable-to-wear watch, said to be hit with younger buyers looking to invest in a high-end watch.
Deepali Nandwani is a journalist who keeps a close watch on the world of luxury.