Well, surprising to say that life is just about back to normal when it comes to Watches and Wonders, and the watch industry at large. Sitting in the press room on day three of the show, the buzz of the show is palpable — the brands are back in fighting form, and global press and retailers are scuttling from appointment to appointment just like the good old days of SIHH and Baselworld. Though flying under the Watches and Wonders banner (an expansion of what was once SIHH), the fair has elements that feel like an amalgam of both. One end of the building caters to the Richemont group that typically attends the fair, and the other end feels like the old halls of Baselworld; assisted in part by the fact that the booths from Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, and Chopard look like they were simply transported from their former fair location in Basel.
With the nostalgia out of the road, there’s a lot to cover in terms of new releases. Rather than going point by point and watch by watch, here’s a snapshot of what we’ve seen from a handful of key brands in the first few days of the fair. We’ll update the list with Canadian pricing as soon as it’s available.
Starting with one of the biggest talking points, and a watch from one of the more challenging rooms to shoot in, this watch is a case study in why I don’t bother reading anyone’s “Rolex Predictions” stories. The new GMT-Master ii reference 126720VTNR (VTNR for Vert/Noir, or Black/Green) is the first left-handed watch we’ve seen from Rolex, and the first lefty I’ve ever seen with the date window moved to the left of the dial. This move makes it intentionally designed to be worn on the right wrist, for left handed wearers, as the date will still be visible with the watch being just out from under a shirt cuff. That said, we won’t be surprised to see it on some left wrists as well.
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas has been the brand’s hot ticket in recent years, so there’s little surprise we’ve seen some extensions to the line in 2022. That said, that’s not the only trick the brand had up its sleeve. Alongside the new Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton, the brand also came to market with a heritage reissue of the 222 — the watch that inspired the original Overseas line. This piece is a solid gold work of art, its 37mm case is matched to a brushed gold integrated bracelet, with the Maltese cross stamped into the bottom right case corner, as it was on the original reference.
The Patek Philippe offering this year was fairly extensive, as expected, but three watches were the obvious standouts. First, the pair of Calatrava releases with textured grey dials — watches that would seem entirely out of place in the brand’s product lines if not for the Calatrava Pilot watches that launched a handful of years ago. The 5326G features an all-new caliber from the brand, which combines an annual calendar with the brand’s travel time complication, making for an exceptionally practical travel watch. The three-hand reference, in contrast, feels like a fantastic contender that is suited to those less interested in classical dress watch design codes. Closing out the trio, Patek has offered up a beautiful green dial variant of the much-loved 5270P Perpetual Calendar Chronograph (which you can see in a quick video that we shot on Wednesday).
There are a few hits at IWC this year, but quite frankly the latest ceramic Top Gun references are the real winners here. Working with Pantone (“the colour company”), the two highlight references are offered in a white “IWC Lake Tahoe”, and a green “Woodland” coloured ceramic case. Measuring 44mm in diameter, the matte finish of the cases somehow give the watches a slightly lighter and smaller feel on the wrist, though by no means diminutive overall. Alongside the duo, the brand announced a new composite material known as Ceratanium, that is offered on the smaller 41mm Top Gun chronograph.
Again, booth lighting nightmare, but trust me when I say this is the absolute wildest Grand Seiko we’ve ever seen. The Grand Seiko Kodo is a new 20-piece reference, with a sticker price that will be north of $350,000(est.), using a “production version” of the Concept T0 Constant Force Tourbillon caliber that the brand unveiled a few years back. This is the first time in the history of watchmaking that a constant force mechanism has been integrated into the tourbillon carriage, and it’s the one second pulse of the escapement (acting as a deadbeat seconds complication) layered over the smooth rotation of the tourbillon cage that gives the watch its name; Kodo, which is Japanese for heartbeat.
Of all the brands that will occasionally throw the watch fair a curveball, Hermès is likely the most consistent. It’s not a brand that many turn to for watches, and yet we’ve seen some stellar (and properly complicated) timepieces come to market in recent years. Case in point, the Arceau Le Temps Voyageur — a new world timer with a peculiar local time setting feature. The local time is indicated on the smaller subdial (home time is digital at 12 o’clock), and when you adjust the local time (via a pusher at nine o’clock) not only does the local hour jump forward, but the subdial also jumps ahead to align with the local city on the dial perimeter. To develop the caliber, the brand turned to Jean-François Mojon of Chronode, whose resume includes calibers for MB&F, De Bethune, and others.
Tudor has been hitting the Black Bay collection hard these days, between the BB58, bronze references, and a ceramic model, but the new Black Bay Pro is justifiably the new collection hero. It’s the smaller case size (39mm) and contrary to the internet banter since its launch, it wears relatively slim on the wrist. Why, you might ask? The thinner non-rotating bezel and domed crystal make a world of difference. This is the perfect way to get that Rollie Explorer II vibe at a much more modest sticker price.
It’s still the year of the Aquaracer in many respects, and aside from a bright orange colourway in the 300m variant, TAG had a couple other heroes to showcase. In particular, the brand launched its first-ever solar-powered watch, appearing in a carbon cased version of the 200 series. Alongside that, the “big boy” of the collection is the brand’s new leading 1000m diver, fitted with oversized and heavily lumed hands, and an interesting crown guard design.