The Hermés Arceau Duc Attelé

Rare Birds: The Most Unusual, Delightful, and Unexpected Timepieces from Watches and Wonders 2024

Now that we’ve had a week to recover from and process, here’s our annual list of launches that deserve more attention.

By Rhonda Riche

The 2024 edition of Watches and Wonders was a heady affair. First, more brands than ever before were exhibiting at Palexpo. Plus, there was an equal number of “pirates” exhibiting off-site.

However, for all the action, it felt as if this year’s show had the hype machine turned down a notch or two. For example, when I was writing my “Rare Birds” articles in 2022 and 2023, there was absolute delirium over the Vacheron Constantin 222 and the Rolex emoji watch, respectively.

This year’s launches, however, felt more like the “year of the line extension.” Few manufactures released entirely new models; meanwhile, the press, collectors, and retailers expended a lot of mental energy reading the tea leaves about what that meant.

Now that we’ve had some time to rest our tired eyes and weary feet, we are able to recognize that there was plenty of novelty within the familiar because the big boys and the independents alike all had some fun exploring their existing artistic and technological signatures in unexpected ways.

So, let’s take a look at Watches and Wonders 2024’s rare birds.

The A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold “Lumen”

For 2024, the Glashütte-based watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne has made one of the brand’s most complicated watches more aesthetically impressive because Lange took its classic triple-complication watch and, for the first time, encased it in its proprietary Honeygold.

But that’s not all! The brand added extra lume to the sub-dials, the tachymeter ring, the second hashes, and the alpha handset. Plus, the big date and the moon phase also got a glow-up. As my mother-in-law used to say, it sounds like too much muchness; however, in person, the lume improves legibility.

Finally, limited to 50 numbered pieces with the price given upon request, A. Lange & Söhne upgrade the movement of the Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold “Lumen” to the L952.4, a flyback chronograph mechanism with jumping minutes, a perpetual calendar, and a tourbillon.

The IWC Portugieser Eternal Calendar

The Portugieser Eternal Calendar from IWC: It’s a tourbillon! It’s a moonphase! And it’s a 400-year gear, a secular perpetual calendar!

More specifically, it’s an impressive timepiece that has been programmed to skip three leap years over four centuries to account for orbital anomalies. Plus, the moon phase display promises to miss only one day every 45 million years.

It’s also a really beautiful watch to look at as well.

The simple 44.4 x 15mm platinum case draws the eye in through the use of contrasting polished and brushed surfaces. Meanwhile, the dial is formed from glass that has been frosted and lacquered in white on the reverse so that the sub-dial information, which has been printed onto the top of the glass, is easy to read. Lastly, the almost liquid-like feeling of the Eternal Calendar is completed by double-box sapphire crystals on the front and back.

The Eternal Calendar got us so giddy that we came up with a proposal to form a cult around this timepiece.

First, we need to assign a group of guardians to protect and maintain at least one example of this perpetual calendar. Then, in 400 years, these guardians will check it and prove that IWC’s claims are real.

Pricing is available upon request.

The Chanel Boy•Friend Skeleton Pink Edition

Jewelry watches don’t always get the props they deserve, but Chanel brought a much-needed outré energy to the fair with its Boy•Friend Skeleton Pink Edition.

This timepiece features a 37 x 28.6 x 8.4mm transparent sapphire case that artfully exposes the maison’s in-house, manual-winding, skeletonized Calibre 3 movement. The bezel is made from 18k beige gold and set with 38 baguette-cut (approx. 3 carats) pink sapphires.

You’ve got to be good to put all of the seams and underpinnings on display, and this piece holds up to haute horology scrutiny. It also has us asking why we don’t see more quilted leather straps.

The Chanel Boy•Friend Skeleton Pink Edition is limited to 55 pieces. Pricing was not available at press time.

The F.P.Journe Élégante 48mm Gino’s Dream

We always talk about emotion when it comes to describing why wristwatches are still relevant in a high-tech society. And the new Élégante 48mm Gino’s Dream from F.P.Journe certainly has us in our feelings.

This colorful watch is a celebration of life that was inspired by François-Paul Journe’s friend and early supporter Gino Cukrowicz, who died in 2022.

Cukrowicz’s flamboyant personal style is translated into a 48 x 40mm Titanium Flat Tortue case with a luminescent white dial encircled by a rainbow of 52 baguette-cut ceramic glass stones. Meanwhile, the hands are blued steel, and its strap is bright yellow.

Priced at CHF 34,500, Gino’s Dream is also a celebration of F.P.Journe’s Élégante collection – a family of playful watches powered by the in-house calibre 1210 electromechanical movement with a built-in sensor that puts the watch to sleep if it is stationary for more than 35 minutes.

This smart sensor is designed to ensure a power reserve of 18 years in standby mode and at least eight years in regular timekeeping mode.

The Cartier Santos-Dumont Rewind

The Santos-Dumont dates back to 1904 and is generally considered the first commercially available men’s dress watch (back in the day, the actual thought of glancing at your watch in a formal setting could bring on a case of the vapors). Over the generations, Cartier’s collection of square-cased watches has only become more sophisticated, thanks to editions featuring lavishly lacquered dials.

So, what makes the new Santos-Dumont Rewind so remarkable? Well, it tells the time backward. The hands move counterclockwise across the rich, ruby-red dial. Of course, the applied Roman numerals are reversed in order, but that also means that even the platinum-encased ultra-thin Cartier 430 MC movement had to be reversed.

The Rewind takes its irreverence quite seriously, and with a price of $38,400 and a production limit of just 200 pieces, this watch was born to be a rare bird.

The Hermés Arceau Duc Attelé

Another line extension that is more like a reinvention, the new Arceau Duc Attelé from Hermès takes the Arceau line to another level with its intriguing marriage of a triple-axis tourbillon and a minute repeater.

The Duc Attelé watch is a fusion of Haute Horlogerie and Hermés’ equestrian heritage. What we like about it is that it doesn’t sacrifice the design language of the asymmetrical design of the original 1978 Arceau merely to show off the triple-axis tourbillon and a minute repeater.

The technology has been tastefully integrated into the Duc Attelé’s 43mm polished titanium or rose gold case. Luckily, both materials are especially good at enhancing the resonance of the minute repeater’s chimes.

Moreover, though it’s a small detail, the fact that the hammers are shaped like horse heads shows how fully aligned Hermès’ horological expertise is with the rest of the luxury house’s history.

The Arceau Duc Attelé is limited to 24 pieces in each material (titanium or rose gold), and each is paired with an alligator strap. Pricing is available upon request.

The HAUTLENCE Retrovision ‘47

The most spirited timepiece spotted at Watches and Wonders was the Retrovision ‘47 from HAUTLENCE. Of course, TV-shaped cases are a signature for the brand, but this lime green goes way back in time with a nod to brightly colored Bakelite portable radios.

The cuboidal case has also been hand-painted to approximate the radio’s thermoplastic material. The lugs look like the handles of an old tube set. And a red leather strap adds to the American Graffiti-era aesthetic.

The tribute to atomic age aesthetics also holds a secret: the time-only dial on the right looks like a radio’s frequency selector, but the speaker grille on the left reveals a mesmerizing 60-second flying tourbillon.

Only one model was produced specifically for HAUTLENCE’s Watches and Wonders 2024 booth, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll see a limited edition come out in the future.

The Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Brise d’Été

While many pieces at Watches and Wonders intrigued and inspired us, only one watch made us swoon: The Lady Arpels Brise d’Été from Van Cleef & Arpels is part timekeeper, part automaton housed house in an exquisite piece of jewelry.

The 38mm gold case is adorned with sparking diamonds. The dial is a masterful composition of mother-of-pearl, tsavorite and spessartite garnets, as well as enameling techniques like plique-à-jour, champlevé, and vallonné. The overall effect is of delicate flora dancing in a summer’s breeze.

This tiny treasure tells the time through butterflies that alight on a retrograde scale, but the whole scene can be set into motion through an on-demand module integrated into an automatic movement and activated via a slide discretely located on the side of the case.

The Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Brise d’Été will be officially launched in October 2024. It is available in a numbered but not limited production. Pricing was not available at press time.

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