Last week the Superbowl of Watches took place in Geneva’s Palexpo, and all eyes were firmly glued to the latest and greatest releases from Watches & Wonders 2023, and the Revolution Whatsapp threads were full of pics of what we liked, and why. But rather than keep it to ourselves, we’re sharing our picks with you in two parts. First of all, the Geneva team, who descended upon Geneva like a pack of horology-obsessed watch wolves, hungry for the latest hot watches we’d like to take home on our wrists.
My favourite watches from the fair covered exceptional historic designs to important updates of modern classics, and a high fashion watch with a high horology twist.
Cartier Privé Tank Normale
Designed by Louis Cartier in 1917, the Tank is undoubtedly Cartier’s most renowned design and one of the most iconic creations in watchmaking that found a solution to seamlessly attach a case to a band in a single integrated design. The Tank Normale is a tribute to the original timepiece, with similar proportions and a distinctive beveled sapphire crystal glass. It is offered on a stunning precious metal bracelet, a first in the Privé collection. Despite its daintiness, the seven-row brick links with satin-brushed surfaces, matched to the case, offers a visual impact and weight that is hard to resist.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref. 126500
What’s most admirable about Rolex is its incredibly measured and sensible approach to movement engineering, aimed at ensuring accuracy, efficiency, robustness, and serviceability for a long time to come. Beyond that, these movements are continuously improved upon from their introduction, enabling them to stay on top of their game and in production for years. Since its launch in 2000, the calibre 4130 has been subject to gradual technical improvements throughout its production span. Boasting a column wheel and vertical clutch, as well as a low part count, it was one of the finest mass-produced automatic chronograph movements in the market. As the Cosmograph Daytona turns 60 this year, Rolex introduced the ref. 126500 and, along with it, the new caliber 4131. As the name suggests, it is an upgraded version of its predecessor, with improvements to further enhance its already stellar performance. The key upgrade is the incorporation of the Chronergy escapement, constructed of nickel-phosphorus, which offers greater energy efficiency over the standard Swiss lever thanks to its optimized pallets and escape wheel teeth geometry while being resistant to magnetic fields. The watch itself has been streamlined and refined, starting with a case that, at 11.9mm high, is 0.5mm slimmer than its predecessor and the dial where the sub-dial rings and dial markers are made just slightly thinner. Similarly, the ceramic bezel has been updated with an outer ring made from the same metal as the middle case, offering protection against impacts. These improvements both internally and externally, only serve to elevate a legend to ever greater heights, and it’s hard to not want one – hype watch or not.
Chanel J12 Diamond Tourbillon
The incredible design of the Calibre 5 in the Chanel J12 Diamond Tourbillon from year left me amazed, and the newly released white version of the watch is equally stunning. On the back, the white ceramic case is contrasted by the movement’s black-plated mainplate and bridges, showcasing its excellent fit. While the Calibre 5 was emphatically aesthetically constructed, what’s truly remarkable is the amount of consideration paid to maximize the movement’s volume for greater performance within the pursuit of beauty. Being smaller than the Caliber 1, the Caliber 5 has only one barrel but one that occupies half the movement’s diameter, covering the span from the central axis to the edge of the baseplate, allowing it to offer a healthy 48-hour power reserve despite a balance frequency of 4Hz, which is higher than most tourbillons, as well as a diamond-set cage. This is made possible as the watch features a dial that is offset from the central axis, with hands that are driven by an auxiliary train from the great wheel located at the edge of the movement as part of a circular layout. As such, the motion works are off-centered, leaving the tourbillon free from obstructions; the aperture size for the tourbillon, like the barrel, can also be taken to its limit, occupying half of the movement’s diameter for maximum visual impact. Achieving such an impressive balance between performance, artistry and coherence in movement and dial design — with respect to the codes of the house — sets a standard that few can match.
This year makes my first year back in the Palexpo (and indeed Switzerland) since 2019, and overall the watches have been a pretty mixed bag, ranging from the super safe to the exceptionally weird. It’s easy to fall in love with the peacocking attention-seekers, but for my favorites, I’m keeping it a little more restrained.
Zenith’s Pilot Big Date Automatic
First up, a watch that I only saw in my second-last formal appointment at the fair, and a classic example of why you need to see something IRL before passing judgement. Zenith’s Pilot Big Date Automatic is a case in point. If you’re looking for bells and whistles, keep on walking. But if you’re interested in exceptionally well-made, well-proportioned watches with a good mix of personality and versatility, give this 40mm Zenith a look. It’s powered by the El Primero 3620, beating at 5Hz and offering 60 hours of power reserve. And while the black ceramic has a contemporary feel, my personal pick is the steel.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso One Precious Colours
Look, I know I said at the start I was opting on keeping things simple, but honestly, this watch has found a home in my heart already. Enamel dials we’ve seen, but enamel cases are something else, and a testament to JLC’s deep skill and knowledge. The hand-painted geometric pattern extends around the flanks of the watch, and is crisp and clear all over. On top of that, the enamel is surrounded with diamonds, and precious stones are sporadically set around the case design, something that has to be done, after the enamelling process is complete, which must be nerve-wracking to say the least. And as for colour, I’ll take the green.
The H08 has been around for a few years now, and the modernist, softly rounded 39mm square watch has a really strong design and identity. But this year this distinctive identity was amplified thanks to a new, technical case material and an array of colors to offset the otherwise grey mood of the piece. The options are orange, yellow, blue or green (orange for me please), and the case material is a braided glass fibre composite coated with aluminium and slate powder for a truly technical look, and a ceramic bezel and crown for some additional toughness. Inside beats a Vaucher-made calibre, which is absolutely fine, but my love for this watch has everything to do with the sophisticated design.
Here are my three favorites of W&W 2023. As always, I like eclectic watches and this time I had several to select from. Honorary mentions go out to Grand Seiko Tentagraph and the Zenith Pilots Ceramic Chronograph, as well as some truly exciting stuff from TAG Heuer that we can’t talk about yet.
Rolex Titanium Yacht-Master 42
Titanium is not a material that Rolex uses in their watches (only for Deep Sea last year), but I am glad they did for this Yacht-Master 42. This Yacht-Master is so wearable, matte-finished tool watch, that hardly weighs anything (it weighs 100 grams, including the bracelet) to the point you have to look down to see if you are wearing it, and finally, it is priced well at USD 14,000. Less than unobtainable Daytona and not that far off from Date Sub.
Chopard L.U.C 1860
When I laid eyes on this beauty, it was love at first sight. Let’s start with the dimensions first – 36.5mm x 8.2mm in their proprietary “Lucent” steel made from 80% recycled material and is 50% harder than regular steel. It is powered by gorgeous L.U.C 96.40-L automatic micro-rotor movement with 60 hours of power reserve. The salmon-colored guilloché gold dial exudes class. This is a true gentleman’s watch.
No list is complete without an independent brand. After the success of Kudoke 1 and 2, this year Stefan and Ev presented the Kudoke 3. The inspiration for this quirky hour display came from Glashutte Original’s PanoGraph, that a young Stefan was involved in constructing. I am not talking about chronograph function, it is the way the chronograph is displayed with three scales. A three-handed hour hand is cool and imaginative. Chronoswiss and Glashutte Original used to make clever complications, but now Habring and Kudoke are taking the lead.