Unlike the first digital Watches & Wonders in 2020 edition, at the start of the pandemic, the organisers of Watches & Wonders Geneva knew well beforehand that the fair had to take place digitally again this year. (The 2020 edition was the first major all-digital watch fair ever, and it took place at such a radical moment in history that no one faulted it for anything — Ed). An online platform was developed specifically for journalists from around the world to attend brand announcements, join press group e-meetings and retrieve necessary materials from the media centre. And, totally by coincidence, this year’s event is bigger than ever with 38 participating brands, partly because it has welcomed some former exhibitors from the now-defunct Baselworld (HourUniverse remains unconfirmed for this year). That means there are even more watches to talk about for Watches & Wonders 2021, and below are the ones I am personally impressed with.
For the 90th anniversary of the Reverso, Jaeger-LeCoultre enters a new frontier with a quadriptyque Reverso bearing two dials on the case and two more on the cradle. The watch, known as the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185, packs most of the expected high-end complications and more, such as the tourbillon, perpetual calendar, four-digit year indication, minute repeater, moon phase as seen from the northern and the southern hemispheres, and the apogee, perigee and height of the moon. Essentially, this feature can be used to predict phenomena such as the supermoons and the solar and lunar eclipses.
You may now wonder how the cradle-side indications advance each day, considering the fact that the cradle is not mechanically linked to the watch’s movement inside the case. A trick is ingeniously built into the watch case in the form of a pin that emerges at midnight to actuate a trigger at the top of the cradle. This clever trick makes it possible for the cradle to remain as thin as possible so as to preserve the proportions of the Reverso. For this arrangement, the only restriction is for the case to not be slid out of the cradle around midnight — otherwise the cradle-side indications will miss their nightly advance.
More traditional but hardly conventional, the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar fills the very large gap left between the Lange 1 Daymatic and the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar. The unique calendar display with the dial flange month ring is retained. Of course, the new day/night indicator is integrated into the moon phase window. And do not refer to this as a salmon dial because it is not! The dial is actually made of pink gold and shows its natural hue. It looks fantastic with the white gold case but only 150 units are produced with this aesthetic. The only regular production reference, for the time being, is in pink gold with a gray dial.
Another perpetual calendar watch caught my eye, and it is an anticipated development. After several high-end complications, it is time for Bvlgari to give the very well-established Octo collection the perpetual calendar complication. The moon phase indication is understandably omitted from this perpetual calendar watch because, design-wise, Bvlgari needs to preserve the minimalistic aesthetics of the Octo while ensuring that the various indications are legible (and they did a great job). The case needs to be so slim as to break the world record as well, resulting in a titanium case that is merely 5.8mm thick. At the same time, a platinum model is offered with a blue lacquered dial for collectors who prefer a metallic gleam on their timepieces.
And then we have the L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25: the first jumping hour watch from Chopard, released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier. This simplistic-looking timepiece houses within its 40mm ethical rose gold case the L.U.C 98.06-L manual-winding movement with eight days of power reserve from the use of four barrels (hence, the name Quattro). If you have been following Chopard closely, you may protest, saying that Quattro movements are good for nine days, but this is not the case as considerable power is required to advance the hour disc in an instantaneous manner. On the grand feu enamelled and domed dial, the hour window is fixed at the six o’clock position so that it will not be blocked from view by the minute hand at the top of each hour when the action takes place.
Continuing with simplistic appearances, there is much more than meets the eye for the 2021 Tank Must. First of all, in addition to the mechanical and regular quartz models, there are references produced with the SolarBeat movement that harnesses energy from sunlight. You cannot see the typical solar cells because they are cleverly hidden underneath the classical dial where the Roman numerals are perforated to allow light through. Secondly, the animal-free strap is made of plant material, mainly apples, to be more environmentally friendly. Four Cartier Tank Must models feature this movement and strap combination: the large model with either a black or light blue strap and the small model with either a black or light green strap.
Then came the stellar surprise… from Louis Vuitton! La Fabrique du Temps in Geneva is the watchmaking studio behind Louis Vuitton’s many complications. So, to add more spectacle to the 2021 watch scene, Louis Vuitton has introduced the Tambour Carpe Diem. By pushing the shaped button on the side of the case, the snake on the dial will move its head to reveal the jumping hour indication, and point its tail to the current minute. Meanwhile, the famous monogram flower motif will appear in the left eye of the skull, and the jaw will open to reveal the words “CARPE DIEM” or “seize the day”. The show lasts 16 seconds, and, yes, that hourglass is the watch’s indication for its 100-hour power reserve.
Lastly, for watch collectors who are always eager to see bigger and badder toys, their subconscious wishes usually come true when the watch brands come up with the same dreams and transform their imagination into actual products. In this particular case, we have the UFO or the Unidentified Floating Object that is conceptualised by Ulysse Nardin in Le Locle and executed by famed clockmaker L’Epée in Delemont. Weighing 7.2 kilograms, the UFO is capable of swinging up to 60 degrees from the axis because of the balance provided by the blue, half-spherical aluminium base and the hidden tungsten mass. Mechanically, the futuristic clock displays time in three zones on separate dials with six barrels providing a power reserve of one year. Only 75 units of the UFO will be produced to mark the 175th anniversary of the company.
For more reads on watches, click here.