8 luxury watches being designed right now
After several uncertain years, the outlook for growth in the luxury market is promising. Debbie Hathway looks at eight new watches that were recently shown at a prestigious fair
Perhaps you have a different fancy watch for every day of the week. Maybe your watch-brand nous reaches near-academic proportions. Or conversely, you just don’t get what the fuss is all about — you just look at the time on your phone. Whatever your stance on the world of high-end timepieces, it’s worth knowing that this microcosm is a key indicator of the luxury goods market. And knowledge of that is critical if you’re thinking of investing in shares or in beautifully crafted pieces to wear on your wrist.
It’s good to hear that there are finally signs of recovery in the luxury watch industry. The Deloitte "Global Powers of Luxury Goods 2018" report says Switzerland watch exports rose throughout 2017 and China was the No 1 importer that year. The report highlights positive expectations for growth in the luxury watch industry as "millennials appear to favour luxury mechanical watches rather than digital watches".
The outlook has been improving since 2016, with Richemont and the Swatch Group recording growth of 6.7% and 6.9% respectively in luxury goods sales early in 2017.
The mood was therefore upbeat in early January at the annual Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie fair in Geneva. This is where some of the world’s leading fine watchmaking manufacturers revealed their new launches to retailers, clients and the media. There were more than 23,000 visitors, a record attendance, at the 29th edition of the prestigious event. Millions more people scour social media channels for the latest news. The exhibition is one of two main international watch fairs held in Switzerland each year.
Independent watch creators and makers are invited to show at the fair’s Carré des Horlogers section. This used to be a good bet for a breather in a jam-packed schedule of presentations and interviews. Only nine such watchmakers first exhibited in 2015, and the thousands of visiting retailers, journalists and clients seemed to focus more of their attention on the historic maisons (read: big brands) that year. That left ample opportunity for the more open-minded and curious among us to grab a quick coffee or a bite to eat at the busy bar counters. This year was different; numbers at the Carré des Horlogers had almost doubled, to 17, close to matching the 18 long-established maisons that dominate Geneva’s Palexpo convention centre.
Top eight watches from the fair
1. Just listen
HMoser&Cie’s Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black pays homage to the manufacturer’s elegant, minimalist style, with a dial that features only a one-minute flying tourbillon (see the sidebar for an explanation of watch terms) at 6 o’clock. To see the time, you simply activate the minute repeater, which will chime the hours, quarter hours and minutes on demand.
2. Final edition
MB&F’s unconventional Horological Machine No 6 — aka HM6 Space Pirate — has been through several iterations since its launch in 2014. Born of childhood memories of Japanese sci-fi cartoons, this HM6 Final Edition watch features a biomorphic case in stainless steel, polished grooves that accentuate the curves of the HM6 body and a more generous central dome that provides a better panoramic view of the flying tourbillon.
3. Majestic blue
If you’re not mesmerised by the midnight blue dial of Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony retrograde day-date self-winding timepiece you’re sure to be in awe of the complex self-winding Calibre 2460 R31R7/2 through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. Its 276 components fit into 5.4mm of the 9.7mm total thickness of the watch.
4. Art of precision
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Rendez-Vous collection showcases the rare gem-setting abilities of master jewellers who are able to execute their craft with the utmost precision, attention to detail and immense patience. The Rendez-Vous Moon Jewellery watch incorporates an original prong (claw-like) setting for the gemstones and a new vision for the moon phases against the shimmer of diamonds and mother-of-pearl.
5. Collectors’ item
The Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph Limited Edition — of only 100 pieces — has caused more than a few hearts to beat faster with its sophisticated salmon-coloured domed dial. It features vintage design codes from Minerva wristwatches of the 1940s and 1950s. Powered by the Montblanc Manufacture monopusher chronograph calibre MB M13.21, it includes a doctor’s pulsograph indication graduated for 30 pulsations.
6. Proprietary material
The Langematik Perpetual Honeygold by A Lange & Söhne presents its zero-reset mechanism in a case of honey gold, a material used exclusively by the brand for selected models. Hard and robust, it complements the validity of the perpetual calendar, which in this case will display the correct date every day until 2100. It’s limited to 100 pieces.
7. Disrupting the classics
Cartier creative director of watchmaking Marie-Laure Cérède smiles proudly when I ask about this beauty. People love it. The distorted features of the Diagonale watch’s tiny dial have proved surprisingly endearing. The lines of striking red or black enamel are echoed by pavé diamonds.
8. Mechanical feat
Christophe Claret celebrates the 30th anniversary of his Manufacture and the 10th anniversary of his brand with another first for fine watchmaking. The Angelico model is described as a "contemporary tribute to the quest for absolute precision embodied by the 18th-century marine chronometers".
Time talk: a glossary of watch terms
Dial: the watch’s face.
Caseback: the back of the watch.
Crown: the button on the side of the watch, used to set time, day and date and to wind the watch or start or stop the stopwatch timer.
Tourbillon: a regulating system mounted in a micro-engineered cage in certain watches, designed to offset the effects of gravity and improve the watch’s accuracy.
Complication: horologist-speak for anything that the watch does beyond telling time — providing information about moon phases and a calendar, for example.
Annual calendar: a watch calendar that has to be set once a year.
Perpetual calendar: a calendar on a watch that pretty much never needs adjusting (unless you count a day in 2100). It knows the dates of the month and registers leap years too.
Calibre: this is also called the "movement" and refers to the mechanism inside the watch.