POSTCARD FROM GENEVA: ROX’S MOST WONDERFUL WATCHES
6th April 2022
It was a certain Marshall Mathers who once rhymed, “Snap back to reality, ope there goes gravity,” and it couldn’t feel more appropriate as we return to our desks, still reeling from the giddy exuberance of Watches & Wonders, in Geneva last week. Gravity indeed, as both a collective joie de vivre, plus a stellar line-up of product had us walking on air – while we were actually treading the tasteful oatmeal carpets of the Palexpo convention centre, for the first time in over 1,100 trade-fairless days.
BA travel chaos and unseasonally bleak weather aside, the ‘novelties’ as the Swiss have it were the shot in the arm our industry has craved for too long. Colourful, playful, creative… all seemingly itching to travel again, given the number of GMTs, worldtimers, divers and evening party pieces.
It was an almost impossible decision-making process, but nevertheless here are our bucket-list stars from each ROX luxury-watch brand. You don’t have to agree with us – after all, isn’t that the point of a list? – but we’re sure that if you check out all the other Watches & Wonders newness here, you’ll quickly ‘lose yourself’ (sorry) in wide-eyed lust.
Words by Alex Doak
BAUME & MERCIER
In a perfectly balanced cocktail-meets-beach steel case measuring 33mm – framed by B&M’s famous ‘Riviera’ dodecagonal bezel – this playful yet glamorous debutante sets its gradated midnight blue lacquer dial with 63 diamonds. The eagle-eyed (who read their atlases 90º anticlockwise) will recognise the undulating seaboard of the Côte d’Azur, beckoning an adventure from Monaco down to Saint Tropez. Like a sparkling summer wave, the gem-setting extends to a portion of the bezel, case and integrated steel strap.
OCTO FINISSIMO ANNIVERSARY EDITION
Most eyes were locked on Rome’s jeweller to the stars and its ‘Ultra’ record-breaker at Watches & Wonders – a paper-thin 1.8mm sandwich of mechanics. But to look at the decade anniversary pieces is to be reminded of something even more remarkable: those 10 years since Bulgari rebooted Gérald Genta’s multifaceted, Ziggurat-like Octo, as many as eight ultra-thin watchmaking records have been smashed, from wristwatch, period (see above) to tourbillon and minute repeater. All along, designer extraordinaire / Scrabble clincher, Fabrizio Buonamassa Staglioni has communicated these feats of horological wizardry with his deft sketches; now, charmingly, translated to the dials of Octo Finissimo’s commemorative duo.
L.U.C. 25th ANNIVERSARY STRIKE TRILOGY
When in 1996 Karl-Friedrich Scheufele avowed to build a true ‘manufacture’ in the spirit of family firm’s 19th-century forefather Louis-Ulysse Chopard, off the back of a fairly modest set-up in Fleurier, just north of Geneva, you were forgiven for balking; it takes centuries in the venerable cult of Swiss horology, after all! Well, we’re all licking our wounds now, as this epic trio of quarter-century specials dictates: collectively representing the entire suite of savoir-faire and micro-mechanical nous, let alone innovation and creativity that Monsieur Scheufele has nurtured in his ’L.U.C’ hothouse of hauteness. It would have taken a crystal ball to predict such technical bombast, back in the Nineties: each of these limited editions – the L.U.C Full Strike Tourbillon, L.U.C Full Strike Sapphire and L.U.C Strike One – harness the volume, purity and lasting resonance of sapphire by forming their musical ‘gongs’ from the same monobloc of crystal as the dome protecting the dial.
BIG BANG AUTOMATIC TOURBILLON PURPLE SAPPHIRE
Since 2016, Hublot’s latest (quite-literally) cutting-edge quest has been to democratise sapphire; the transparent and ultra-resistant material whose machining process is so complex that its use in watchmaking has thus far been restricted to the ‘glass’ covering the dial. The new ‘Purple’ recruit – quite apart from some spectacular in-house mechanics – joins a roster of yellow, red, blue et al. as yet another world-first for synthetic sapphire. Each new colour is the result of a very subtle alchemy that walks a knife edge in terms of a perfectly homogeneous hue: Al₂O₃ (aluminium oxyde) and tinged chrome, fused somewhere between 2,000 and 2,050ºC.
Those not choosing to quest to Camelot via the outrageous ‘Knights of the Round Table’ monotourbillon were rewarded elsewhere on Roger Dubuis’ lurid cyberpunk stand, thanks to the relatively understated Excalibur Monobalancier, reminding us all of the brand’s late, eponymous founder and his lightness of touch in ‘complications’, honed for years at Patek Philippe. a new collection of timepieces reinterpreted for the modern world with sophistication and flair. The skeleton-dial theatrics belie an exacting nuance, with better efficiency and energy transmission bestowed upon the beating heart of any mechanical watch, the escapement: its central wheel now constructed from diamond-coated silicon, paired with adjustable, diamond-coated silicon pallet-stones, and a new oil guaranteeing longer service intervals.
AQUARACER PROFESSIONAL 1000 SUPERDIVER
Quite apart from the Superdiver (to the rescue!) obviously looking the business, with that monumental crown guard and urgent-orange bezel, this represents a fascinating turn for TAG Heuer. The historic sport-timing legend is turning from Swiss watchmaking’s one-stop movement shops, ETA or Sellita, to Tudor and Chanel’s joint-owned Kenissi Manufacture SA, for the new calibre TH30-00 – chronometer rated, 70-hour autonomy, 5-year warranty… all the newfound real-world standards scoring mechanicals major sustainability points over quartz. Oh, and you can also dive to a bone-crushing 1,000m wearing this, or spend weeks completing a helium-saturated subaqua mission without having to worry about your sapphire crystal popping off when you repressurise. As we said: real-world practicality! But all the more reassuring for it.
BLACK BAY PRO
The Black Bay has practically become a brand in its own right, dressing up-to-the-minute mechanical strides (see TAG Heuer, above). But, short of the modern moves made in parallel by fellow waterbaby, Pelagos, it seemed difficult to imagine BB evolving beyond the rose tint. So praise be for the ‘Pro’, which in one fell swoop proves how those cherypicked vintage details so beloved of the French Navy’s elite fragmen, post-war (‘snowflake’ hands, oversized crown from the Fifties, etc.). Just £3,080 buys you all the above technicalities, with an integrated ‘GMT’ 24-hour hand, and a pared-back facelift that could be a signpost to Tudor’s future, let alone destination.
CHRONOMASTER SPORT OPEN
Early-Noughties: Swiss mechanical watchmaking was regaining a brio post-Quartz-Crisis, with sapphire-crystal display casebacks becoming a fixture in the new era of deliberate and proud distinction from disposable electronic tat. Trust Zenith therefore to go one further and introduce the ‘Open’ in 2003, proudly framing its ‘El Primero’ movement’s ticking regulator assembly, through a dial winding (not so much the Round Window as Kidney-shaped Window. This was rightful fanfare, given the world’s first self-winding chronograph movement was launched the same year (1969) as Seiko’s revolutionary, devastating quartz Astron. Revisiting the iconic tri-colour configuration that adorned Zenith’s short-lived launch collection, 2022’s revival retains the colourway thanks to a hesalite crystal element, still allowing a view of the silicon star-shaped escape wheel, twitching 5 times a second. A welcome revival of a revival, and still a potent connection to watchmaking’s modern history.