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Watches and Wonders

From the Whimsical to the Outrageous: The Most Unexpected Novelties from Watches & Wonders 2023

This year the watch world’s biggest fair offered such an abundance of ultra-creative, ultra-rare timepieces that even the year’s most-hyped watches had an element of whimsy. (We’re looking at you, Rolex Day-Date 36 Jigsaw!)

By Rhonda Riche

It was, in short, a very good year. And now that we’ve had time to process our time at Watches & Wonders 2023 in Geneva, here’s our annual list of launches that deserve more attention.

The HAUTLENCE Vagabonde x Black Badger

One of Team Watchonista’s favorite places in the Palexpo is the Carré des Horologers, known colloquially as “Independent’s Hall.” That is where we spotted the HAUTLENCE Vagabonde x Black Badger in the wild.

An avant-garde timepiece made by two unorthodox entities – Swiss watchmakers HAUTLENCE and designer James Thompson, a.k.a. Black Badger – this new piece uses the 43 x 50.8 x 11.9mm TV-shaped Vagabonde as their canvas.

And between the wandering hours and minutes display of the HAUTLENCE’s B30 self-winding movement and Thompson’s signature orange 3D Badgerite lume applied in colorful, abstract patterns atop a frosted blackor dial, the new HAUTLENCE Vagabonde x Black Badger emphasizes the interaction between the positive and negative space.

Limited to only 28 pieces, its price was not available at publishing. Visit HAUTLENCE’s website for more information.

The Patek Philippe Calatrava 24-Hour Display Travel Time

Anything Patek Philippe introduces gets a lot of attention, but the new Calatrava Ref. 5224R-001’s take on the 24-hour display warrants a closer look. And as noted by my colleague Steven Rogers during the show, the time zone complication is no doubt useful, but with the Ref. 5224R-001, Patek Philippe has re-designed the display and mechanism in a radical new way without losing any of the functionality found with traditional 24-hour displays.

Specifically, the Geneva-based brand has adopted a 24-hour format to eliminate the need for a day/night indicator. Moreover, Patek also replaced the traditional correction pushers for local time on the left-hand flank of the case with a patented correction system that can be used when the crown is pulled out to the intermediate position (backward and forward adjustment in one-hour steps).

The result is a $57,370 watch that’s elegant and easy to use.

The Chanel J12 Hyper Cybernetic

Chanel’s offerings at Watches & Wonders 2023 were out of this world, focusing on its Interstellar Capsule Collection of space-themed versions of its classic collections. And, for us, the standout piece was the J12 Hyper Cybernetic, a bejeweled version of the J12 Cybernetic from the same capsule collection that is an 8-bit rendering of the brand’s signature ceramic watch.

As you can see from the images above, the pixelated motif on the J12 Hyper Cybernetic is created with diamonds that stand out like stars against the matte black case, bezel, and dial.

Limited to only 55 pieces, we hope the designers had as much fun creating the J12 Hyper Cybernetic as we had looking at it.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Secret Necklace

Secret watches were a thing this year, with everyone from Chanel to Hermès showing stunning examples timepieces with covered dials. Meanwhile, pendant watches also made splashes at Van Cleef & Arpels and, especially, Piaget.

So, what could be better than a timepiece that combines both of these trends? Allow us to introduce you to the Reverso Secret Necklace from Jaeger-LeCoultre.

This richly gem-set watch hangs from a thick yet supple chain of intricate diamond-set links and polished onyx beads inspired by the black textile bracelets seen on Reverso models of the 1930s and houses the manually wound Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 846 featuring a 38-hour power reserve.

The A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph

It’s only been four years since A. Lange & Söhne introduced the Odysseus, the Glashütte-based brand’s first sports-chic timepiece, but the maison couldn’t rest on its success. So, how hype is the Odysseus Chronograph? For starters, it’s the only timepiece Lange brought to Watches & Wonders 2023. Now that’s confidence!

This year, A. Lange & Söhne premiered the new L156.1 calibre – the brand’s first self-winding chronograph movement. However, to maintain the distinct Odysseus look, the chronograph hands are positioned in the center instead of the traditional use of sub-dials at the 3 and 9 o’clock. That frees up space for Lange’s signature outsized date window. And for maximum functionality, it has a reset-to-zero function.

There’s not enough space here to get into all the innovations that make the 42.5mm stainless steel Odysseus Chronograph a whale, but it’s a rare bird – only 100 will be produced (price given upon request).

The Piaget Limelight High Jewelry Cuff Watch

Last but not least, at Watches & Wonders 2023, Piaget paid tribute to its most over-the-top designs from the 1960s and 1980s with three cuff watches, all embellished with gems and either white opal, turquoise, or black opal dials and bracelets hand decorated to resemble either tree bark (using the Palace Décor technique) or frost on a window pane.

Even if you’re not a fan of jewelry watches, you have to admit that these ornate cuffs are not only breathtaking, but they are also influential:

First, the new Masterpiece Collection Spring Drive Limited Edition “Majestic White Birch” from Grand Seiko showcased a hand-engraved 950 platinum case textured to evoke the white birch forest at the foot of the North Yatsugatake Mountains.

And though the texture of the Majestic White Birch’s case could not reasonably be confused with the Palace Décor technique Piaget has been using for decades, their resemblance is equally hard to deny.

Second, behind the skeletonized dial of the Octo Roma Naturalia from Bulgari featured a middle case crafted from tiger’s eye – a stone often utilized in some of Piaget’s most iconic jewelry watches of the 1960s.

And finally, at this year’s Watches & Wonders, Rolex introduced an 18K yellow gold Day-Date 36 with a diamond-set bezel and a carnelian stone dial that evoked thoughts of a burning orange sunset and Piaget advertisements from yesteryear.

Need we say more?

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