What Will Be The Next 222? The Reissues We’d Like To See At Watches & Wonders 2023
After the blockbuster release of the Vacheron Constantin 222 reissue at last year’s show, we can’t help but wonder: Will the 2023 edition of Watches & Wonders give collectors more of what they want? Will it be more of the same this year? Get a glimpse of what a purist’s wish list looks like as we head to the most exciting time of year for the watch world.
I can’t think of the last time a modern watch release had near-universal praise and success. Usually, someone somewhere is complaining about the size, thickness, type of “faux patina” used, the fact that it is another “lazy re-edition,” etc. However, this was not the case when Vacheron Constantin released the Historiques 222 during Watches & Wonders 2022.
There were no complaints about dimensions or the fact that there is a date window. The watch seemingly received universal praise across social media, news outlets, and mainstream media. The faithful re-edition of the 222 (which first came out in 1977) was surefire evidence that when a maison listens to its collectors, it can generate a boatload of interest.
It was truly surprising that a yellow gold watch was indeed the highlight of last year’s show because in a year like 2022, when white metals (steel, white gold, platinum) and rose gold were all the rage, the use of yellow gold was a risky move for the brand. Moreover, Vacheron Constantin’s restraint in not making a bigger, bulkier piece should also be applauded.
In short, the team at Vacheron understood the assignment, executed it in near perfection, then had an amazing year as a result. Fun Fact: The 222 had such presence that Breitling Ambassador Brad Pitt got caught wearing one when he went shopping at Feldmar Watch Company in Los Angeles.
So, in anticipation of Watches & Wonders 2023, which will run from Monday, March 27th to Sunday, April 2nd, I would like to propose the return of three “re-editions” from three entirely different maisons that could play the role of the 222 and steal the show.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus 3800/1J from 1981
I don’t know about anyone else, but to me, it would seem a bit “lazy” if Patek Philippe released yet another stainless steel Nautilus at this year’s Watches & Wonders. Though, to be fair, the stainless steel version of the Nautilus remains one of the brand’s most sought after models, even by the most discerning collectors.
So, what a fairytale it would be for the hopeless romantics among us if we got to see the return of the prodigal model! I am, of course, talking about Patek Philippe’s yellow gold Nautilus Ref. 3800/1J with a striking blue dial. The identity of the vaunted Geneva-based brand remains in the use of high-end materials, à la white gold, rose gold, and platinum, and purist collectors would have it no other way. And yet, none of the 31 Nautilus models currently listed on Patek Philippe’s website feature yellow gold. Thus, a solid argument can be made that a yellow gold Nautilus with a blue dial will be universally well-received by both collectors and enthusiasts.
Moreover, a yellow gold Nautilus could potentially curtail the Nautilus hype even further. And while that sounds like it could be a bad thing, allow me to explain: A precious metal Nautilus would start at a price point that is, most likely, nearly double a steel one. Hence a reissue of the 3800/1J could reduce the number of flippers by half, in my opinion.
Sadly, reducing its size from the 5811’s current 41mm to its original 37.5mm would probably be asking too much from the “watch gods,” but we can dream.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Mariner Deep Sea E558 “Barracuda” from 1968
Few watches have haunted my dreams like the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Mariner Deep Sea E558 “Barracuda,” first released in 1968, has over the last six years.
The piece is a watch-lovers dream with a nice beefy super compressor case made by Ervin Piquerez (EPSA), who, according to Charlie Dunne (@strictlyvintagewatches), was considered a “Renaissance man” due to the approximately 200 patents and over 8,000 registered designs he had over the course of his career. Plus, it’s rare; collector lore says that the E558 was only produced for about 7-8 years and just about 1,500 examples in it its entirety.
At the time, the Barracuda was a peculiar release (especially as the Master Mariner line reigned as dress watches) and shook things up within the lineup as an oversized performance diver. So, while one can make the case that flagship dive watches like Rolex’s Submariner and Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms are groundbreaking tool watches, an argument can also be made that the Master Mariner E558 is a rather debonair alternative.
Plus, with current trends still embracing sports watch aesthetics, I think most collectors would agree that a release like this could begin to put Jaeger-LeCoultre back on the map. Lastly, the watch is undeniably handsome. And paired with a J.B. bracelet, a reissue of the Master Mariner Deep Sea E558 “Barracuda” could win over both vintage and modern enthusiasts.
The Daniel Roth Papillon from 1998
Few names can be associated with modern independent watchmaking like Daniel Roth.
After starting his eponymous manufacture in 1989, Roth is not only considered one of the fathers of the indie watchmaking movement, but he is also often credited with saving Breguet during the upheaval created by the quartz crisis in the 1970s and early 1980s. However, before that, he remained the only watchmaker at Audemars Piguet to hail from the Vallée de Joux and cemented his aesthetic designs with the double ellipse case and Breguet-inspired dials and ranged from time-only pieces to tourbillons and minute repeaters.
Introduced in 1998, the Papillon was released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Roth beginning his own manufacture. The last watch Roth designed for his brand before leaving, the instantly recognizable Papillon takes its name from the French word butterfly.
The layout of the Papillon is brilliantly simple yet deceivingly elegant, with an oversized “small” seconds sub-dial smack dab in the middle of the dial, an aperture at 12 o’clock displaying the jumping hour, and a curved track running between 3 and 9 o’clock showing the minutes. A blued pointer emerges beneath the seconds sub-dial to indicate specific minutes while a blued seconds hand sits at the watch’s center.
It may sound very complex, but it takes only one look at the Papillon to understand how easy the design is on the eyes. So much so that I can’t help but think the return of the classic Papillon is long overdue.
In the middle of last year, Bulgari teased that the Daniel Roth brand may have a comeback of its own, but, as of this writing, we have yet to see anything despite the recent rise in interest surrounding Roth’s vintage work. However, the 25th anniversary of the Papillon would be the perfect occasion to release a reissue of the original. Indeed, it would truly be a gift from the “watch gods.”
In my opinion, a reissue of any one of these three pieces will pique the interest of all watch enthusiasts.
Vintage collectors and lovers of reissues will fall head over heels for a Master Mariner Deep Sea E558 “Barracuda” reissue from Jaeger-LeCoultre and attract passionate individuals to the brand. Similarly, a revival of the original Daniel Roth Papillon will no doubt enamor independent watchmaking groupies and those who love the different. Finally, a reissue of the yellow gold Nautilus Ref. 3800/1J will please both purists and those who love something flashy but not too “out there.”
Whichever way you want to look at it, the reissue of any one of these three will shake things up for the brands involved and watch lovers like us. What more could we ask for?