The Watches & Wonders exhibition that took place in Hong Kong earlier this month offers a double opportunity for the exhibiting brands. On the one hand, they can show off their skills to the general public, with the watches, manufacturing techniques and crafts used in their production all on display to those who make the trip. It is on this last point that this exhibition differs from the SIHH, which is for the trade only, yet of which it is a kind of extension. On the other hand, the brands can also present a salvo of new products to feed the desires of watch lovers.
You don’t always need to see a watch in real life and close up in order to sense a certain curiosity about it, or even an urgent desire to buy one. Like all exhibitions, it shows familiar existing models, new versions based on them, for example with a new dial colour or a new type of gold case. That leaves us with the genuine new products, which best show off the brands’ ambitions for the Asian market in particular, but also for the global market as a whole. Among these genuine new products, several caught our attention because of their scope. Maybe it’s because of their complications or because of what they say about the brand that launched them, or even just because of the interest of the watch itself.
The new Rotonde de Cartier Second Time-Zone Day/Night fits all of these descriptions. Its movement illustrates Cartier’s capacity to develop its base movement, the 1904MC, to which three small complications have been added: a day/night indicator couple with a retrograde second time zone and a big date. Practicality is at the heart of this piece, which shows off its pragmatic aims on a series of dials that include a sublime blue colour.
The Maître Cabinotier Astronomica by Vacheron Constantin has a totally different kind of appeal. This unique piece is a demonstration of what Vacheron Constantin can do for you if you can sign a cheque for seven figures and are prepared to wait a long time. With 15 complications and 839 components, this special order measures 47mm in diameter and 19mm in thickness. It is a museum piece that is not necessarily intended to be worn and which shows the limits of producing such hyper-complicated watches: those who buy them enjoy them in a very special, very private way and not necessarily on the wrist.
Wearability was not necessarily one of Montblanc concerns either when it was developing its new Metamorphosis II. The logical successor to the Metamorphosis presented in 2010, this version is simpler, both in terms of its dial and its case. The drop-shaped case is, well, dropped, in favour of a round case in red gold with a diameter of 52mm. Inside, we find a further developed version of the two-faced calibre that swaps from a date dial to a monopusher chronograph with a metamorphosis of the dial.
While complications may have taken the honours at Watches & Wonders 2014, there was also no lack of more affordable timepieces. IWC presented its Portofino Midsize models in a 37mm size aimed at an extrovert female clientele and a masculine clientele looking for watches with a more reasonable diameter. It therefore fills a double gap, since IWC has until now been exclusively masculine with large diameter models. But for the moment, none of the models are available without at least the dial set with diamonds, not to mention the bezel. So it is only something for men who have no fear of precious stones.
Panerai once again showed its in-house manufacturing prowess. The new calibre P.4000 is the first to be fitted with a micro-rotor, an horological speciality that few brands in general master, especially at this price point. The P.4000 is used in the new PAM572, a Radiomir 1940 3 Days Automatic, among others. This steel watch with a modest price has an aesthetic that will certainly not disappoint fans of the Panerai style.
Talking of style, the Baume & Mercier Clifton 8 Day Power Reserve is not lacking in it either. The 1950s style case of this sleek model has already been used to house an ultra-flat calibre and a tourbillon. Now it hosts an 8-day movement. In keeping with the discretion of the 1950s, this is illustrated by a modest power reserve gauge in a corner of the dial. It is far removed from the very demonstrative Richard Mille Tourbillon Phoenix & Dragon Jackie Chan. But the latter model played the local card, in terms of both the symbolism of the animal and the exclusivity and luxury of its finishing.