Watchonista Staff Picks: Watches & Wonders 2022 Edition
I am a beer- and sausage-scarred veteran of 15+ years of Swiss watch shows. So, you can imagine how happy I was to hop back into the familiar Watches & Wonders saddle.
It was a good show on many levels. Many of the participating brands clearly took the opportunity of quarantine to do some soul-searching and refocus. So, in general, collections at the show were more finely tuned and thoughtfully curated. And all of this was presented with the promise of more to come throughout the year.
Indeed, one of the big takeaways from the 2022 edition of Watches & Wonders was that the days of seeing the whole shebang for the year are largely gone. Still, the brands’ renewed focus and high level of curation didn’t make choosing a single outstanding timepiece from Watches & Wonders 2022 a cakewalk. Far from it.
For instance, I’ve been a fan of the innovative Spring Drive movement for years. And although Grand Seiko has introduced sportier Spring Drive-powered timepieces in the past, contemporary models that mesh with my personal tastes and lifestyle have been something of a “missing link” for me.
However, with the release of new Evolution 9 models at W&W, I’ve finally found my missing link. Of course, the GMTs, chronos, and the exquisite Spring Drive diver are all terrific, but if I have to choose one, it’s the Spring Drive Chronograph GMT 15th Anniversary Limited Edition (SBGC249).
At first glance, the SBGC249 presents as a solid, modern 45mm titanium sport chronograph. But there is just so much of that special Grand Seiko DNA going on here: The deep blue of the dial, the sapphire (yes, sapphire!) bezel, the exquisitely polished titanium case and bracelet, the well-proportioned chrono sub-dials (one of which bears the “Spring Drive” label), the flattened chrono pushers, the green and blue LumiBrite on the hands and indices…I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Team Watchonista’s Favorite Releases: Watches & Wonders 2022 Edition
In 1922, only four years after the industry-defining Tank debuted in 1917, Louis Cartier presented the first Tank Chinoise. The watchmaker wanted to recognize the richness of art and design from other cultures, so he designed the Tank Chinoise to pay tribute to the architecture of Chinese temples and the geometric aesthetics of their porticos.
Now, in 2022, a hundred years after its debut, Cartier reinterprets the ornamental atmosphere of the Tank Chinoise in a contemporary way, displaying a skeleton movement via a pattern that almost seems to pulse with a rhythm. This new model represents an expression of a time and a quality of eternal chicness that epitomizes what Cartier was and always should be.
Out of the dozens of amazing timepieces I saw and handled during Watches & Wonders, there are a few that remain in my mind long after, but for me, the standout is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Star.
Okay. I acknowledge that the Rendez-Vous Star may seem like an unusual choice for me, as it is embellished with diamonds and clearly designed for the ladies. But this watch offers so much more, including a shooting star!
On the wrist, it makes you want to drift into the multi-level sapphire dial, gazing through the beautifully hand-painted soft and fluffy clouds to hopefully catch a glimpse of the star as it shoots randomly around the dial. This clever addition to the new in-house calibre 734 is certainly something I have never seen before.
And while the appearance of the shooting star is not truly random, catching the star dancing across the dial a few times a day would certainly bring a smile to my face.
When it comes to superlative watchmaking, one name – in my humble opinion – stands alone: A. Lange & Söhne. It is a brand whose movements are some of the most beautiful ever made and represent a blend of heritage, romanticism, and technical excellence that is unparalleled. And the Richard Lange Minute Repeater released at Watches & Wonders represents all of that.
At the outset, it looks like any other Richard Lange model, but the devil is truly in the details. The dial is made of enameled white gold in three parts, and Lange has perfected the “Pause Elimination” feature in the movement that removes the typical pause heard between the chiming of hours and minutes.
The movement side showcases Lange finishing work at its very best with black polished hammers and gongs. But of particular note is the prominent and open centrifugal governor, which is the mechanism that regulates the speed and timing of the gongs and chimes – and watching that whirl about with its gold polished weights is as incredible as listening to pitch perfect minute repeater itself.
It’s a pitch-perfect example of fine watchmaking from a brand that usually whispers (not shouts) but has made a rare exception to chime.
What has captivated me the most about the Czapek & Cie. Antarctique Frozen Star S is its mesmerizing deep hue of the blue-grey textured dial surface.
To achieve this effect, the brand used (for the first time in the watchmaking world) the rarest precious metal on Earth: Osmium. Extremely hard, dense, and heavy, one needs to extract 10,000 tons of platinum to obtain only 30 grams of osmium. Plus, osmium is highly unstable unless crystalized like it is on the Antarctique Frozen Star S’ dial. Fun Fact: The crystallization process for osmium requires temperatures in excess of 3,000ºC.
A limited edition of 38 pieces, rare things drive me crazy!
My top pick is the Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-force Tourbillon.
Besides being impressive from an aesthetic angle, the Kodo represents a first for the brand, as it is Grand Seiko’s first mechanical grand complication. I think it is a future icon and definitely something you want to see at a show like Watches & Wonders.
Completely out of leftfield, and a release that shocked even me, was the Kelly watch from Hermès on the exotic cord.
The possibilities are endless with this diamond-set rose gold watch. Whether you want to wrap the cord around your wrist and wear it as a bracelet, drape it around your neck as a necklace, or even attach it to an Hermès bag, the ability to more or less “hide” the watch is as appealing as it is chic.
No doubt there were lots of grand complications and high watchmaking pieces to come out of Watches & Wonders this year, but, of course, what got everyone buzzing was the new Rolex GMT Master II “Destro.”
The black and green bezel option should have been enough to make all my fellow Rolex-fanboys-and-girls happy, but Rolex, perhaps listening to the endless cries to do something a little different, did just that.
The new GMT is a dream for lefties. Specifically, it’s designed to be worn on the right wrist with the crown and date window located on the left side of the watch. But I have to say that, as a righty, I love the idea that there won’t be a crown digging into my left wrist when I wear it.
To be honest, it took me a few days to get on board with this release, but it’s like staring at one of those Magic Eye books we had as kids: You’ll eventually see it, and when you do, it’s super cool.
My W&W 2022 pick has to be the Parmigiani Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante.
It’s a gorgeous-looking watch that continues the contemporary design established with the launch of the Tonda PF collection last year. Moreover, it retains the shapely, wearable 40mm steel case and knurled platinum bezel of the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor.
However, now, the “barleycorn” guilloche dial is Milano blue – rather than gray – which is right up my alley. Plus, besides being innovative and discreet, the split-GMT function is a lot of fun to use. Lastly, the in-house movement, now with a 22K gold oscillating weight, looks superb through the display caseback.
The ultra-luxury sports watch market, for years, has been dominated by Patek Philippe’s Nautilus and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. But I’m hoping that will change a bit with Vacheron Constantin’s relaunch of the Historiques 222, which easily won my vote for favorite Watches & Wonders 2022 release.
As a predominately vintage and neo-vintage collector, Vacheron Constantin staying true to the OG, Jörg Hysek-designed model is very much appreciated. The brand could have easily increased the case diameter from 37mm to a more “modern” 41 or 42mm or went with an en vogue dial color like green or Tiffany Blue, but they didn’t. Instead, by kicking off the 222’s revamp with only a solid gold option, Vacheron Constantin is showing the community that it isn’t too concerned with appealing to the steel sports watch hype crowd (though I do hope a steel model is forthcoming).
Simply put: The new Historiques 222 is stunning. Bravo, Vacheron!
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell & Pierre Vogel)