It’s been three weeks since Watches And Wonders 2023 but the discussions amongst the watch community still don’t end. With the number of visitors exceeding expectations, some hits, and a few misses, this show got the entire community together.
The Hour Markers sat down with a group of panelists to dissect every nitty-gritty of the show and more. The panelists included: Nikolaus Hirsch, CEO of Hirsch Straps, Johnny, Elizabeth Doerr, Co-Founder At Quill And Pad, Punit Mehta, Founder of RedBar Bombay, Karishma Karer, Founder Of The Hour Markers and Dillon Bhatt.
10- SECOND RAPID FIRE: Top 2 Highlight Watches?
Nikolaus: I’d pick the Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar Ulta-Thin Obsidian and Cartier Santos Dumont with the skeletonized micro-rotor.
Johnny: I’ve been more drawn towards the independents for the past 10-12 years. If I had to pick two they’d be from outside of the show launches – Kudoke 3. A simple but genius way of telling the time. Next, it would be the Parmigiani Fleurier Rattrapante Split Seconds Chronograph.
Elizabeth: My pick would be A. Lange & Sohne Odysseus Chronograph and the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Féerie Watch with the retrograde hand and jumping hours. They worked on the movement and brought the case size down to 33mm which is so small for the beauty and technology that has gone into the timepiece.
Karishma: I’d pick the Parmigiani Tonda PF Minutes Rattrapante and for my love for Reversos, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph.
Punit: I really like the Tag Heuer Carrera since they’ve come out with a smaller size. With their marketing and ideas on point, this launch can help them tap into a wider audience. The other one which caught my eye was the Chopard Alpine Eagle with the LUC movement. When you look at it, it’s like every other Alpine Eagle but when you wear it, it’s spectacular.
HITS AND MISSES
The obvious choice Jaeger-LeCoultre created quite the chatter. Here’s what our panelists thought:
Elizabeth: I feel they’ve had a year to end all years this year. I personally am a huge Reverso fan. This year the concentration on the Reversos with the new tourbillon and chronograph blew my socks off! But also, the two pieces for women – the Secret Pendant Necklace and the enameled wristwatches were stunning. Bringing all these together in one year makes it a winner for the brand. There was something for everyone in the collection even though it wasn’t spoken about. The Reverso Small Seconds was absolutely luxurious. And with the tourbillon and chronographs, with their brand new technology and the chronograph was reworked from the 90s, it was beautiful!
Punit: The caliber 829 was from 1996 which has been reworked in the new Reversos. Although I’d still prefer the chronograph start-stop indicator on the front face of the dial which they removed. But, they do have the hours and minutes on the duo side which wasn’t there earlier. This was in steel again, which was amazing.
Karishma: The Secret Reverso necklace and the hand-enameled cases were the underdogs at the show but they were absolutely exquisite. It may have gotten overshadowed since the Reverso Chronograph was in the spotlight, but what they did with the Reverso one’s was amazing.
Nikolaus: I did find it interesting but the Reverso is not something I feel would look good on my wrist. I’m torn between the sizes but they make great watches. I love the design; particularly the red-gold version with the black dial because it’s the perfect combo.
Johnny: I did get to spend time with the big brand but Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of my favorites. Their design language and they are always crushing with their technology. At Jaeger-LeCoultre, they’re never standing still. I actually love the Reverso!
And then the conversation moved to the crown – Rolex!
Nikolaus: We should definitely appreciate the newness that the brand brought with its launches at Watches And Wonders 2023. It’s very interesting to me that they started doing watches with open case backs, but it was all about having fun this year!
Dillon: Agreed! I love the jigsaw timepiece and I feel it’s one of those off-catalog pieces where the brand’s just having fun. It’s like they can do such a fun watch but with the elegant President bracelet and put a number dial and do it better than everybody else. You can’t really appreciate it unless you see it! With the bubble, they had to print each one individually, and what they did with the lacquer was very unique.
Elizabeth: Yes, it’s so unlike Rolex. They brought out so many things which were surprising this year. It felt like they were making fun of themselves with the celebration pieces but it was completely serious. My reaction was pure joy because the emojis and the seven messages in the day arc were amazing! I think they’re trying to tell us something without actually saying it in a fun way.
Johnny: At the show, people always wish to start with the Rolex booth and see their launches. What I believe is that they are well-manufactured watches; mechanically they’re exceptional and have a massive appeal. But I don’t have aspirations towards a Rolex.
Karishma: Over the last few years, people are always complaining about how Rolex makes boring watches although everyone wants one. This year was refreshing, especially with the puzzle. The 1908 Perpetual was an interesting launch and it’s interesting to see them doing open case backs.
Punit: When you’re talking about Daytona’s, it’s always been put on the altar of being the most iconic watch known for its robustness and more. So, doing a caseback wasn’t required. When you talk about case backs you expect high-finishing and high-level jewels. But with Rolex one expects automated watches. Even with 1908 Perpetual, discontinuing the Cellini moonphase, created a split amongst collectors.
Dillon: Yes, the open case backs weren’t a necessity because the Daytonas that 90% of people want are sports watches. They want utility watches and we shouldn’t forget that they’re made for a purpose. I would’ve actually preferred it with a closed case back.
Nikolaus: Maybe it’s just the start. Maybe Rolex wanted to start with the cleaner pieces they can offer. There have been watches with annual calendars and beautiful complications from Rolex in the past. It’s a better move to create a clean slate and move forward.
Karishma: I want to dive straight into discussing the independents and the one that really stood out for me was Louis Moinet. I saw this really exquisite piece at Louis Moinet which was the Savannah timepiece wherein actual puzzle pieces are put together and then painted upon. Fine watchmaking at its best!
Johnny: I agree, they’re much underrated and you need to follow them to understand what they actually do. The Savannah watches depict artisanal watchmaking. The dials are hand-painted and exude sophistication. There are about 96 pieces of jigsaw on each dial! I believe independent watches are an extension of the character of the people behind them. They also do amazing things with the chronographs or the tachymeter with a 20-second retrograde pointer. The Memoris and Time To Race collections were also very cool!
Elizabeth: There were a lot of releases with the independents. The entire AHCI show was filled with stunning launches. Even at Watches And Wonders, which usually has lesser independent brands, we saw a lot more. One of the independents that really struck me outside of Watches And Wonders was Bovet. They had a watch this year called the Virtuoso XI. It was the typical Bovet craftsmanship with a lot of skeletonization, engraving, and an ethereal movement.
Karishma: I didn’t get a chance to see it, however, from Laurent Ferrier, Gronefeld, Hautlence, and more, we saw several independent brand launches. An interesting one I came across was Charles Zuber.
Johnny: Their main collection is called the Perfos which was a collaboration with Cédric Johner, one of the great designers of our time. It’s not only about the case and bracelet which have been manufactured and engineered, the dial is impressive too.
Dillon: A brand that really surprised me this year was one that’s not very well-known for its watchmaking – Gucci. They did a phenomenal expo at the villa. Their movement and choice of stone were phenomenal. I was blown away by the level of finishing and craftsmanship on their timepieces. I’m looking forward to their journey ahead and if they can establish themselves as a brand that can compete with others in the same segment. Their major competitors are brands like Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier’s high-jewelry pieces.
Elizabeth: As you all mentioned about Hermes, they do have very impressive designs. They take designs that are already available and manage to put them within their categories and create high-watchmaking pieces. This year, they had the enamel pieces with 1600 pieces making up the horse design. The amount of work that went into the piece is outstanding. The movement is also outstanding.
Well, we saw some serious watchmaking, but also some fun and emotions being evoked on your wrist. We’ve spoken about the heavy hitters but what about the micro-brands?
Stay tuned for more!