Moving Ahead: Geneva Trend Report 2019
As the watch world slowly awakes from its slumber, trends are picking up once again. Words by Sean Mossadeg
The 29th edition of SIHH that just passed the watch world by marks the last one that will be held in January. From next year onwards, the exhibition will be held in late April, a week before Baselworld in a collaboration. It’s a time of confusion for most, considering what the change will mean for retailers as well as traditional media covering the industry, but it remains to be seen what amendments will be exacted in order to continue, or grow the sale of watches throughout the year.
With the looming changes on everyone’s mind, it was surprising then that SIHH celebrated its most crowded exhibition yet. In a press release shared by the organisers, 23,000 unique visitors attended the event, an increase of 15 per cent from the previous years. Even with the exhbiting cutting one day off the original five days, the four-day schedule saw an improvement on the digital front with the “#SIHH2019 hashtag featured in no fewer than 380,000 posts on websites, blogs and webzines, reaching almost 260 million people.”
Evidently, fine watchmaking is in no danger of slowing down.
The attention paid to SIHH rubbed off on concurrent exhibitors such as Franck Muller and Cvstos’ WPHH as well as the LVMH-backed Geneva Days. As the watch world seemingly exits its 2015 and ’16 downturn and moves into a more profitable time, WOW looks at some watchmaking trends this year that are bound to resonate with enthusiasts, both new and old.
The resurgence of salmon dials is an odd one, to be honest. The colour, perhaps best associated with custom Patek Philippes, was used mostly as a way for brands to reintroduce timepieces with a vintage feel. Cartier had a run in the ‘90s with salmon dials complementing platinum cases on models such as the Tank Cintrée and the Santos but its mainstream appeal, however, was catapulted by the auction of famed singer-songwriter Eric Clapton’s white gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch Patek Philippe Ref. 3970, that went under the hammer at Phillip’s Hong Kong watch auction for HK$3,560,000.
Baselworld 2018 saw Patek Philippe use the same hue on the 5270P Perpetual Calendar Chronograph, which was well-received by many and the exclusivity associated with the colour is having its obvious impact this year. From A. Lange & Söhne to Montblanc, it seemed the shade of choice for many.
A. Lange & Söhne
In a first for A. Lange & Söhne, the Maison introduced a pink gold dial variant of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon. Unlike its first iteration that was launched in 2016 with a black dial and a platinum case, this year’s model takes on the salmon trend against a white gold case. Boasting functions such as a flyback chronograph, a perpetual calendar with moon phases, a stop-second tourbillon, as well as a power reserve indicator, the watch is identical save the aesthetic differences. Like its predecessor, the watch will be limited to 100 pieces. A. Lange & Söhne’s pink gold dial is like that used on its pink gold cases, with the orange-ness of the hue standing out, due to a higher percentage of copper. In its matte state, however, it makes for a great contrast with the shinier white gold case.
On the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak in 1992, Audemars Piguet released a pink gold-dialled version of the Royal Oak Extra-Thin Jumbo in a stainless-steel case. This year, the brand brings the same dial back but in an 18k white gold case, the perfect watch for those enamoured by the salmon trend. The dial that showcases the brand’s iconic petite tapisserie guilloche, however, isn’t quite as pink-ish, but rather somewhere between yellow gold and orange with a mere hint of pink.
That being said, it’s a handsome dial and the fact that the background of the date disc has been tweaked to fit the colour scheme is a nice touch. Powering the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Extra-Thin with Salmon Dial is the 3.05mm self-winding movement cal. 2121 that the brand has been using for a long time now.
Perhaps one of the most innovative independent watchmakers of today, F.P. Journe’s timepieces have always exemplified haute horlogerie. Twenty years ago, Journe launched his first tourbillon wristwatch, the Tourbillon Souverain that featured a remontoir d’egalité constant force system, selling it out completely by subscription. In celebration of this first, the master watchmaker developed a new system to add to the watch this year – swapping out the horizontal tourbillon cage with a vertical one, the idea being that the tourbillon’s functions “would remain constant whether the watch lies flat or is placed on its side.”
Where it fits in with the trend is the dial, of course. The rose gold dial is in fact, the dial-facing side of the main plate, decorated with a clous de Paris guilloche. On the 18k 6N rose gold case, the dial blends in to let its owner focus on the enamel sub-dials, a first time for the brand.
While the trend may be in full swing, it’s apparent that the exclusivity of it still need be in place. Montblanc has many a collection to choose from but the fact that it was the Heritage Manufacture range, and specifically its Pulsograph, that received the salmon dial treatment is a testament to its colour-coded rarity if you will. Limited to just 100 pieces, the Montblanc Heritage Manufacture Pulsograph contrasts the salmon dial with a steel case but the kicker is with the blue accents around the face such as the blue central seconds hands and the blue pulsation bezel. It’s a combination that makes the watch stand out just a tad more. Aesthetics-aside, the watch has plenty more to boast, what with the manual-wound column-wheel mono-pusher chronograph calibre MR M13.21 powering the piece. Turn over the watch and the Minerva-born movement boasts rhodium-coated German silver plates with hand-chamfered edges and circular graining.
To say that green-coloured dials are a new trend is a bit of a stretch. The trend, however, seems to be gaining more traction this year after several years of playing second fiddle to the ever-popular blue dial. Now that the production of blue dials can no longer be considered a trend but very much a staple in the industry, green dials have climbed a spot.
H. Moser & Cie
This year’s Endeavour Tourbillon Concept Cosmic Green marks the first time that Moser’s popular tourbillon range gets the green fume treatment. Limited to just 50 pieces and encased in 18k white gold, the watch is as Moser as Moser gets – no logos, no indices, just a pure look at the distinctive graduated dial and a modular flying tourbillon with skeletonised bridges at six o’clock.
With a colour as uncontroversial as green (and one that has a military association), the likelihood of seeing it appear manifold is increased. Take IWC’s extended Pilot’s Watch Spitfire special editions from this year for example. All four timepieces – the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Spitfire, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire, Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire, Pilot’s Watch UTC Spitfire Edition “MJ271” – feature an olive-green dial. The Spitfire range takes inspiration from the iconic British fighter aircraft, designed by Reginald J. Mitchell, and IWC spared no expense making sure that the name was lived up to. The full collection will boast IWC’s own manufacture calibres. The Perpetual Calendar Spitfire utilises IWC’s 52615 calibre with 168 hours power reserve, perpetual calendar with displays for the date, day, month and perpetual moon phase for the northern and southern hemisphere and the recognisable digital year display. What makes the four pieces work, of course, is the contrast between the bronze cases and the olive green.
Olive green was also Montblanc’s colour of choice for its 1858 collection, choosing bronze cases as well to capture a vintage aesthetic for the timepieces. Unlike the decidedly military inspiration that the IWC Pilot’s Watch Spitfire collection is based on, Montblanc used the “great outdoors” and the sense of adventure that drove the brand to where it is today as motivation. The brand used the same natural greenery for its booth, driving the message home even further. The watches, however, were still the highlights of the show. The new variants of the 1858 Automatic, 1858 Automatic Chronograph, and the limited 1858 Geosphere are all water-resistant to 100 metres boast bronze-coated titanium case backs, engraved with “Spirit of Mountain Exploration” design. The 1858 Geosphere, which has no changes from last year apart from the dial colour and features northern and southern hemisphere globes with a 24-hour scale plus day/night indication, will be limited to just 1,858 pieces.
The anniversary of Piaget’s Altiplano last year meant that its other collections took a bit of a backseat, but this year the brand’s sport luxe Polo S received a limited-edition update in the form of a green dial. Matching a new green dial and a dark green alligator leather strap, the watch is a stand out against the rest of the relatively staid Polo S collection in place. The beauty of the piece is further accentuated in the flesh, with the horizontally brushed bezel matching up with the finishing of the dial. Like other timepieces in the same sports luxe category, it’s the contrast of the different finishes of the case as well that draw the eye to the Polo S. This new Polo S Green will be limited to just 500 pieces.
To say that the complicated timepieces showcased at Geneva earlier this year are a trend may seem like a stretch to some, but the truth is, the watch world can be blatantly obvious when it wants to. When the going gets tough, commercial pieces are the aim of the game – watches that are accessible not just in prices, but in terms of design and are generally well-received. In the good years, however, brands are willing to push boundaries a little with higher-end pieces and the likelihood of brands releasing the culmination of years’ worth of research and design is increased. With enough brands doing it, however, it can somewhat be described as a trend. Nobody is going to complain, of course. The timepieces unveiled in Geneva were worth the attention, with feats of engineering and the prowess of mechanical watchmaking on show.
The concept of resonance is simple to explain but a pain to execute. In essence, when two objects oscillate in proximity to one another, the exerting forces cause both to synchronise, provided both are mounted on the same platform or connected. When it was discovered by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens, his pendulum clocks were connected by a wooden bar. Since then, several watchmakers have used this phenomenon to enhance the precision of timepieces, by pairing two escapements connected in such a way that they would influence each other.
Armin Strom first utilised this in its Mirrored Force Resonance watch in 2016 that had both balance wheels connected by a steel spring. This ensured a mirrored frequency and oscillation of both wheels. The evolution of the piece was the brand’s Masterpiece 1 Dual Time Resonance that instead of a singular time function, had two separate movements, each equipped with its own barrel and gear train to display separate times. Each dial was controlled via independent crowns for adjustment and even displayed its own power reserve indicators on them.
For 2019, Armin Strom complements the complicated movement of the watch with a case to match. The new Armin Strom Dual Time Resonance Sapphire is constructed from blocks of sapphire crystal. The process is a trying one with diamond-coated tools having to mill the hard material without damaging it. Several days of polishing then develops the clearness of the case. With a see-through case like this and from all sides, it was necessary for the brand to ensure that the movement plates and bridges, and any surface that can be observed, was to be decorated and finished thoroughly.
Last year was the first year that Hermès exhibited at SIHH and its theme of “Play” saw the brand take on more of the whimsical than technical. This year, however, La Montres Hermès brought out the big guns with the Arceau L’Heure de la Lune. Fitted with a new movement, the Hermès Calibre H1837, the watch showcases two satellite subdials, one with the time and the other with the date. These two subdials seem to float above two moons made in mother-of-pearl, each representing the northern and southern lunar views. The southern lunar view sits at 12 o’clock, and the northern view at six. What happens through the 59-day cycle (double the lunar cycle of 29.5 days) is that the satellite dials of time and date move clockwise to cover the moons in a reflection of the actual lunar cycle. Hermès has developed two different variants – one with a dial that’s made of grey meteorite and the other in blue aventurine.
Not only is the watch astounding in terms of its movement and module, it has also been decorated superbly. The photo-realistic northern lunar view at six o’clock is deceivingly real thanks to a transfer illustration and the southern lunar view subtly shows Pegasus. Against the sparkling aventurine, the watch captures the playful Hermès spirit that’s been backed with haute horlogerie expertise.
There was a time when a watch name with “tourbillon” in it would’ve meant that the watch in writing was already worth celebrating but the industry has moved so far from that. These days, to qualify for haute horlogerie, the bar has been raised tremendously. As the “watchmaker’s watch,” Jaeger-LeCoultre has always proven that that bar is theirs to set. This year, the brand released its fifth gyrotourbillon watch, the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel.
The watch comes after the 2004 Master Gyrotourbillon 1, the 2008 Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2, the 2013 Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee and the 2016 Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon – but where JLC has pushed the boundary this year, has been the miniaturisation of this multi-axis tourbillon, smaller than any preceding gyrotourbillon, in a bid to make the watch more wearable. It’s no easy feat building a highly complex mechanism at a smaller size but the maison engineered it such that the case size of the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel measures at just 43mm.
Couple the technical marvel of the gyrotourbillon with the melody of the Westminster chime and a perpetual calendar, and you’re left with one of the more complicated watches of the season. In its repeater, Jaeger-LeCoultre shows off the house’s savoir faire with four sets of gongs and hammers – two to recreate the Westminster chime’s melody for each quarter of the hour – and a patented mechanism that allows for the pusher to extend out of the case when another button is activated. The cherry on top of the cake is of the brand’s perpetual calendar, accurate to the year 2100.
Montblanc’s Metamorphosis range has always been one of the sleeper hits of the brand, showcasing a vastly more poetic complication than technical, concerned with hiding rather than showing off. This year, the third iteration of the Metamorphosis, under the Star Legacy collection, sees a 50mm wide timepiece with what might not seem like much at first glance. Without activating the sliding lever on the left of the watch, what is visible is an oversized balance wheel at 12 o’clock and a Northern Hemisphere globe at six o’clock with a 24-hour scale and day/night indicator surrounding it.
Activate the sliding lever and the 24-hour scale pulls back to reveal a three-dimensional moon display at six o’clock, against an aventurine disc that mimics the night sky. The moon orbits the globe mimicking the actual ages of the moon through the month and only needs adjustment by a day every 122 years. At 12 o’clock on the Montblanc Star Legacy Metamorphosis Limited Edition 8, the disc surrounding the balance wheel moves away to reveal Montblanc’s patented Exo Tourbillon and a jumping date disc that is hard to catch but is on the left of the tourbillon. In total, the movement consists of 718 parts, with 320 individual components going to just the shutter transformation of the Metamorphosis.
When you’re the longest-running watch brand in the world, there is a need to truly innovate beyond everything that other brands have done. This year, Vacheron Constantin proves that an old dog certainly can learn new tricks with the Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar.
The perpetual calendar, should all forms of technology die out in a post-apocalyptic scenario, would perhaps be the most important complication a timepiece could have. The ability to tell the date from now till 2100 is a highly underrated ability in the digital age but its only problem? Power reserves. When the mainspring unwinds and a perpetual calendar stops, correcting the dates further down the road isn’t necessarily the easiest task. There are many ways to solve this, of course. Some brands have chosen to increase power reserves, some have chosen to make correction less painful. What Vacheron Constantin chose to tackle however was altogether different.
In short, the maison developed a twin oscillator system but unlike most, these two balance wheels beat at different frequencies. The catch? You can alternate between the two, depending on whether you’re wearing the timepiece or letting it lay in storage. With one balance wheel beating at 5Hz or 36,000bph, and the other at 1.2Hz or 8,640bph, Vacheron Constantin has engineered an entire system around the two modes. A single barrel with two mainsprings allows for the two gear trains to transfer power when switched without so much as a hiccup in timekeeping. Ingeniously, the active mode allows for four days of power reserve while the power reserve for standby mode (the 1.2Hz frequency) allows for a crazy 65 days. On top of the obviously lower energy consumption that the lower frequency wheel allows, a differential on top of the barrel allows each spring to unwind at a different speed when activated. Because it is running at 1.2Hz however, the watch is only guaranteed to keep time in one position.