STARTER FOR FIVE: THE BEST FIRST IMPRESSIONS FROM DAY ONE AT WATCHES AND WONDER
27th March 2023
It’s that time of year again, when a draughty exhibition space next to Geneva airport is transformed with plush cream carpets and soft beige drapes into the nexus of luxury, also known as Watches and Wonders. Last year the return to travel had brands throwing out GMTs like they were bags of airplane peanuts, whereas this year colour and creativity are the defining trends. There’s a lot of pink and not just for women, but if pastels don’t tempt there’s lush greens, rich reds, and plenty of blue. Bold tourbillons abound, new ways to wear a watch that isn’t on your wrist, and TAG Heuer Carrera’s 60th birthday are other things to get excited about, but out of the myriad launches these are the five that turned the ROX team’s heads.
Wafting in in a cloud of sprezzatura is Bulgari’s Octo Roma. First introduced in 2012, with its “round but not round” case design based on the shape of the Eternal City after which it is named, it was the start of Bulgari’s rise to the top of the watch world. Very little has changed since then except this line now includes a chronograph. This is a gorgeous steel design that offers something a little different to the usual 1970s styles that dominate this category – the bracelet isn’t integrated for a start. In keeping with the Roma’s elegant lines, the pushers here have been integrated into the case rather than sitting proud from it, so as not to disrupt its faultless architecture. It’s just the type of thoughtful detail we’ve come to expect from Fabrizio Buonamassa, Bulgari’s product creation executive director – a man who with an obsession for how luxury objects should look and who dreams of making the perfect cacio e pepe.
Chopard and the Mille Miglia are the longest running watch/car partnership, together for 34 years during which 35 watches have been produced. For 2023, its Classic Chronograph is back and now in Lucent Steel, an exclusive alloy that took a full four years to develop. Named after its luminous, gently reflective appearance, Lucent Steel is not only of surgical quality but is 50 per cent harder than conventional steel – making it more than capable of handling the bumps and scrapes of competitive driving. The bezels, crowns and pushers of the three Lucent Steel models are in this same material, while those of the bi-material model are made from ethical 18-carat rose gold. The dials are also inspired by racing. The Lucent Steel models feature dials named Verde Chiaro (light green) and Rosso Amarena (cherry red), each with a circular satin-brushed finish, or in Nero Corsa(racing black) with an engine-turned finish. Meanwhile, the bi-material version in Lucent Steel and ethical gold has a dial in circular satin-brushed Grigio-Blue (grey blue). Through the sapphire crystal at the back you can admire affording Chopards’s self-winding chronograph movement certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, with a 54-hour power reserve. With its aura of sprezzatura, this is watch is the ideal driving companion, whether you’re cruising through Reggio Emilia or hitting the A199 to Leith.
Hublot get things off with a, well, bang with this big hitter bringing together three of the brand’s areas of expertise – skeletonisation, complications, and mad materials. Yes, there are such impressive features as a skeletonised and suspended tourbillon and skeleton micro-rotor, but the real star of the show is the integrated bracelet. Every link has been individually machined and finished to achieve optimum surface quality – something that is notoriously difficult with composite materials like carbon fibre and Texalium, a tissue with a fibre glass base covered in a surface layer of aluminium, because each element responds differently to cutting, machining and chamfering, which is complicated by the fact that the strap is 100% carbon fibre with a Texalium coating; the case is also coated with this material to counter wear and tear. It is also just 26gms. In fact, the watch in total only weighs a feather-light 68gms. Unsurprisingly this is a limited edition, with only 50 being made, but if you can get your hands on it, it’s a an unapologetically bold timepiece that showcases Hublot’s straddling of watchmaking’s past and its future.
Not every 60-year-old can claim to look as good as TAG Heuer’s Carrera. First designed by a young Jack Heuer in 1963, it has been given a subtle makeover as it goes into its seventh decade. The sapphire crystal has been changed to the replicate the domed “glassbox” hesalite crystals from the 1970s (a collector’s favourite), the pushers have been refined, but the real change is what’s under the bonnet. Powering it is an evolved version of TAG Heuer’s in-house chronograph calibre the Heuer 02. This new generation TH20-00 now has a bi-directional rotor winding it; a detail that ensures faster, more reliable winding, and improved precision. It’s an upgraded ticker that will keep this legend going for another 60 years.
Everything in this new reimagining of Zenith’s Pilot watch is so good, choosing just one was impossible, so special mention goes to this collection of head turners. Zenith’s aviation history is sans pareil – this is a brand whose owner Georges-Favre Jacot trademarked the word “pilote” as far back as 1888, 15 years before the Wright Brothers took to the skies. This entirely redesigned collection takes Zenith’s vintage codes and reimagines them for the 21st century. The result is a fresh take on this traditional design. The classic pilot’s watch touchpoints are there – legible Arabic numerals, oversized crown that can be used with gloves on, SuperLuminova so it can be read at night – but there are new details such as a line where the 6 should be as a reference to the artificial horizon instrument in a plane, which is in turn a nod to Zenith’s past as an aviation instrument manufacturer. There’s the option of a matte black ceramic case or stainless steel, with or without the flyback chronograph, and a patented big date. The three-hand auto is powered by the El Primero 3620, with a 60-hours power reserve, while the Big Date Flyback has the new El Primero 3652. It also comes with quick-change strap options so you can really soar in the style stakes.
This stylishly retro slice of newness is actually a homage to Tudor’s history – the 1954 launch of its first diving watch, the 7922. This iteration is as close to an historic piece as this brand gets. The case is a retro-approved 37mm, while the snowflake hands pay tribute to a 1969 diver, on which this style was first used. Despite the vintage looks, this timepiece has a 21st heart. Powering it is Tudor’s own COSC-certified Manufacture Calibre 5400 with a silicon hairspring and 70 hours of power reserve. There are two strap choices – rubber or steel bracelet – both with Tudor’s own “T-fit” rapid adjustment clasp. It may be a love letter to Tudor’s diving watch history but this new Black Bay has all the makings of a modern classic.
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