The Indies That Rocked: Four Standouts from the Watch Shows in Geneva

The Indies That Rocked: Four Standouts from the Watch Shows in Geneva

What does a 1940s television, the artist formerly known as Prince, colorful graphic design, and stained glass have in common? Read on to find out.

By Barbara Palumbo

If there is anything in life I appreciate, it’s things that are divergent. For instance, when I was 20 years old, much to my parents’ chagrin, I shaved my head. Bald. Like Sinead O’Connor, bald.

Did people think I did it for attention? Sure. Did my 1993 contemporaries mock me? Absolutely. Did I give a crap? Nope, because I had my reasons for doing it, and those reasons needed no explanation, at least not in my mind.

Maybe that’s part of what draws me to independent watch brands that continue to push boundaries and introduce products that keep the industry guessing, questioning, talking, and even smiling. They don’t owe us anything, and yet, what they provide is interesting and thought-provoking.

For me, the indies are the heroes/heroines of the watch industry, and the following four releases were the ones that tickled my fancy most at Watches and Wonders 2024 in Geneva.

HAUTLENCE’s Retrovision ‘47

When a watch brand’s name is created by mixing up the letters in “Neuchatel,” you just know that you’ll never be bored with the timepieces they produce. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that HAUTLENCE has been on something of a roll lately.

That is because, beyond its young, vibrant, and engaging CEO (Samuel Hoffman) and a vision spearheaded by the Meylan family (of H. Moser fame), this 20-year-old independent brand released one of the most talked about and Instagrammed pieces at the 2024 edition of Watches and Wonders: The Retrovision ‘47.

This “throwback to a simpler time” style of watch is certainly that – simple, with regards to displaying hours and minutes – yet it also boasts a tourbillion beneath the speaker grates of its old school 1940s television/radio-like appearance. Moreover, the hand-painted marbleized green case and brightly colored reddish-orange strap made every visitor to the booth stop in their tracks.

It was a Babe Ruth-sized home run for the brand and was absolutely one of my favorite releases.

The Ressence Type 1 Round M

While technically, the Type 1 M by Ressence came out in late 2023, Watches and Wonders was the first time journalists coming in from all over the world got to experience its awesomeness. Of course, as I’ve already explained, I love anything that’s out of the ordinary; thus, Ressence watches have always held a special place in my heart. However, this season’s Type 1 Round M made my heart swell even more.

Why? Because although its colorful sub-dials are certainly good-looking, they are not why the new Type 1 Round M struck a chord in me. No, that was due to this piece’s design also paying homage to the field of graphic artistry (another subject near and dear to my heart).

The “M” stands for “Multicolor.” Still, while the watch features blue, yellow, red, and green hues in the form of its outer dial rim and sub-dials, the colors are muted, softened against a white backdrop and strap, making the watch stand out on the wearer, but not in an ostentatious way.

I mean, Ressence has never really been obnoxious in its offerings, right? And yet every time they release a new novelty, we show up with popcorn to take in the show.

The DB28xs Purple Rain by De Bethune

If you are a watch brand and plan to cheekily name a watch after a Prince song/album/movie, you can almost guarantee that you’ll get this watch writer’s attention. But then I find out you’re De Bethune, and I may as well throw in the towel and give up on seeing any other watches in Geneva!

I mean, one of my favorite colors being used by one of my favorite independent brands referencing one of my favorite musical artists? CALL THE PARAMEDICS AND ALERT THE FUNERAL HOME; I’M DEAD AND BURIED.

The newest De Bethune – the DB28xs Purple Rain – has a significantly smaller diameter (38.7mm) than most of the DB25 models and offers another new colorway via heated titanium (hence the vibrant purple hue of the case). As stated by the brand, “It’s a color that has inspired artists, poets, and visionaries for centuries, often symbolizing passion, spirituality, and innovation.”

The Beauregard x Vianney Halter Ulysse

After a decade of masterfully floral-designed, gem-set watches made specifically for women, Alexandre Beauregard opted to release his first-ever men’s collection alongside master watchmaker and all-around hell-of-a-good-guy Vianney Halter.

After a meeting in 2019, the two men embarked on what could be the “sleeper” release at the 2024 edition of Watches and Wonders, with media and collectors alike buzzing about their contemporary creation, the Ulysse, because while the mechanisms powering the Ulysse are very Vianney, it’s the dial that blows away the onlooker at first glance.

Resembling stained glass, the dial design contains precious gemstones and high-quality gold. Fun Fact: Sixty-eight miniature components of hand-cut, high-clarity aquamarines were selected for their purity and delicate color, then inlaid into the precious metal, thus creating the Ulysse’s delicate dial design.

Meanwhile, the 41mm 18K rose gold case contains a movement that allows for 56 hours of power reserve and a water resistance of 30 meters. But if you wear this magnificent watch in the pool, I may have to hunt you down personally and hurt you with my bare hands.

Final Thoughts

As an indie-lover (of music, fashion, and, obviously, watches), I will admit that it was difficult to select watches that I thought were standouts.

I loved that NOMOS Glashütte surprised us all with thirty-one new dial colorways. I even quipped on my Instagram: “Other brands at Watches and Wonders: ‘We have a new dial color!’ Nomos: ‘Hold my Hefeweizen.’”

Of course, I loved H. Moser’s releases and Laurent Ferrier and ArtyA and Sartory Billard, but when I closed my eyes and night and found myself dreaming of what I’d seen, these were the four for which I clung to my pillow the tightest, and most certainly smiled the widest.

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