The paucity of ultra-complicated watches that defy the imagination, and even break the mind, will be noted as a defining characteristic of Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023.
As Watches and Wonders Geneva lurched forward to its inevitable conclusion, it is time for some initial observations and thoughts. We are writing this as the public days at the fair unfold, and we think that those expecting watershed moments will be disappointed. That is of course unless you are thinking about Rolex because it certainly feels like this is the Geneva brand’s year. The Perpetual 1908 is easily the best-received watch of the fair, and we have still not encountered even one dissenting voice. Of course, every year has hints of a certain shade of green — Geneva green if you will — but it is more of a drawn-out magic hour this time (think La Rayon Vert and feel the warm afterglow). Okay, nostalgia for Nouvelle Vague cinema aside, but staying with green, the colour continues to wash over the dials, cases and straps of watch brands, with no new colour emerging as a challenger. Oris leads the pack with a fun ProPilot X in Kermit green. This one is literally Kermit-themed, with the world’s favourite muppet on the dial, discreetly. Take a look here and spot the little guy.
Another brand having fun with colour this year is Hublot, because of course. After impressing with the Neon Yellow SAXEM earlier this year, Hublot delivers a blue sapphire crystal watch with matching bracelet in the Big Bang Integrated Tourbillon Full Blue Sapphire. The watch even includes a sapphire crystal dial with hands and markers with blue highlights because it adds to the overall blue effect. More impressive here was, arguably, Hublot’s efforts to streamline the fit and feel of its range, most visible this year in the new MP-13 Tourbillon Bi-Axis Retrograde. You might recognise the bi-axis tourbillon from the MP-09 series but things are a little different in the MP-13, which you can see at 6 o’clock, sort of. The shape of the movement means there is a bulge at 6 o’clock, and Hublot leans into this with the most unusual curvature in sapphire crystal shapes. With the MP-13, the shape persists but it has evolved. We like the fact that you have to see and feel the watch to understand this difference because that makes the experience of flying thousands of kilometres to see the watch worth it. Of course, the new model is limited to 50 pieces so Hublot is not making radical changes.
On the radical front, there has been some disappointment this year with a perceived lack of horological substance, and there might some truth to this. There are few new grand complications to speak of, if any. The word before the fair was that groups were concerned about economic contagion spreading and were preparing for the worst. The closest we got to grand complications was new variants of the Patek Philippe Grand Master Chime, and the Roger Dubuis concept watch. Whatever the case might be, the chronograph complication received a lot of attention this year with the first newly shaped variant appearing at Jaeger-LeCoultre since 1996; the Odysseus Split Seconds Chronograph (covered briefly earlier) redefining the user experience and the display; the Montblanc 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva Limited Edition also playing with the user experience; and the Zenith Pilot Flyback Chronograph Big Date (also covered earlier) all competing for attention.
- READ MORE: Watches and Wonders 2023 Day 1 Highlights
Since we did not even mention the Jaeger-LeCoultre piece earlier, here is a brief introduction. When was the last time you even recall a shaped chronograph movement? Not just a form watch, mind you, but a form watch with a matching form movement. While you stew on that, consider the Reverso Tribute Chronograph, which looks at first glance like a time-only watch, except for the two teasing pushers. Of course, there is a second face here, and it is quite special, being as ornate as the time-only dial is spare. This is truly the watch for someone who wants two very distinct looks — and the sort of collector who appreciates having something no other watchmaker could even do.
As for Montblanc, we like the bezel-activated action, although we wonder about the true user experience here because the action is not intuitive at all. This is the first bezel-activated chronograph we can think of, and Montblanc has filed for at least three patents here. Functions-wise, the chronograph works pretty much as you expect it to, except there are no pushers. One twist of the unidirectional fluted bezel starts the chronograph, another stops it, and a third resets it. The action takes some getting used to, but it is refreshing to see a new execution of this standard complication.
- READ MORE: Watches and Wonders 2023 Day 2 Highlights
All this aside, the paucity of ultra-complicated watches that defy the imagination, and even break the mind, will be noted as a defining characteristic of Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023. Super-complications only matter to a minuscule number of collectors, and there are likely a few of these who will be happy to have another shot (or shots) at no less than five chiming watches from Patek Philippe. Unsatisfying as it may be, this marks the end of our current reporting on the fair, and we look forward to bringing you more in-depth pieces on all the highlights we picked up in our daily coverage. For now, we are moving on to the manufactures in Neuchâtel…
Read about our Watches and Wonders 2023 Day 3 Highlights here.
For more watch reads, click here.