Its format is unchanged. Watches & Wonders still lasts four days, hosts 12 brands and targets the public. But for this third edition, participating brands have decided to go all out with more launches as well as increasingly striking and distinctive innovations. It should be noted that this Hong Kong get together is focused on direct sales to its visitors, and that these are the most wooed in the world. Chinese clients are therefore spoilt.

Van Cleef & Arpels is taking the opportunity to launch two significant models. The first is the Lady Arpels Peau d’Âne Forêt Enchantée, an extension of the magical world of its High Jewellery collection presented at the Biennale des Antiquaires de Paris, dedicated to the fairytale, Peau d’Âne (Donkey Skin). Timepieces were conspicuously absent from this collection and we hope that this watch, a combination of precious and bucolic, is but the first step. Just as delicious, the Cadrans Extraordinaires Oiseaux Enchantés plays a card that Van Cleef and Arpels masters perfectly. The brand has a particular fondness for creating subtle volume and level effects on the dial. This particular bestiary is composed of birds (a Northern Cardinal, a hummingbird and a kingfisher) that enliven these dials on a background of hard stone marquetry. The miniscule flying objects are made of real feathers, arranged by Parisian feather artist, Nelly Saunier.

Cadrans Extraordinaires Oiseaux Enchantés. © Van Cleef & Arpels

Panerai is probably the brand which makes the most effort for this fair. Its Radiomir 1940 model is presented here with five launches, in addition to a new movement. This is above all about size. Panerai models generally measure 44 mm and more with rare exceptions. The brand is at last heading towards a range enriched with more reasonable diameters and in particular the Radiomir 1940 3 Days PAM574 which measures 42 mm in diameter but overall remains slim. Inside beats a new family of calibers, the new P.1000. This thin, hand-wound 12-ligne movement nonetheless offers a three-day power reserve, which has pretty much become a Panerai minimum. For this occasion, the PAM574 reference is fitted with an apple green alligator leather strap that naturally gives it a more universal appeal, since the brand has always struggled to attract ladies to its macho models.

When La Clé was launched, Cartier had announced that it represented a new pillar in its collections. After the three-hand automatic versions seen at the 2015 SIHH, the brand installs one of its most recognizable complications in this new case. All around, a skeletonized grid of Roman numerals underscored in blue completely fills the solid area of La Clé. Cartier is accustomed to playing on solids and voids and on the third dimension. This new Clé in palladium thus perfectly fits the bill. But for a brand of this stature and ambition, this couldn’t be the only proposal. Cartier has thus installed its most important Fine Watchmaking calibre in the full-set Clé de Cartier Flying Tourbillon.

The second component in the Cartier offer for Watches & Wonders is an exceptional five-piece limited-edition boxed set regrouping three of the brand’s most spectacular complications, the Astrocalendaire, the Flying Tourbillon Minute Repeater and the Mysterious Double Tourbillon. All are housed in Rotonde cases made of platinum and equipped with dials in flinqué grand feu enamel with a wave design. One can barely imagine the price of this exceptional creation, delivered in a box made of black-lacquered mahogany.

Clé de Cartier l'Heure Mystérieuse. © Cartier

The trend began in 2014 and was confirmed in 2015: the moon is a very current theme and Piaget once again confirms this with its Limelight Stella. This precious gem-set model plays the midnight blue card as the backdrop for its central moon, a rare siting that it shares with the Emperador Coussin Moon Phases. Its name is no indication but the case used for the occasion is that of the Gouverneur, a vertical oval which almost becomes a circle by playing on the bezel’s double row of setting.

When Montblanc launched its new limited series perpetual calendars, they were snapped up. The limited series was, well, limited… as was the price tag, which explains the almost immediate evaporation of the Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar. But the brand is continuing the adventure with this new Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Sapphire variation, whose sapphire dial reveals the complication plate resting beneath the hands. The red gold case measures 39 mm, a smaller size which has become a habit firmly adopted by Montblanc.

At Vacheron Constantin there is a veritable “lug” culture. Yes, the growth protruding from the case to hold the strap or bracelet is an important element of style (and comfort) and Vacheron Constantin is one of the brands which has played on it the most. It must be said that it has 260 years of history behind it, giving it plenty of time to try things out. The Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 Chronograph perhaps lacks an elegant name, but its ‘cow-horn’ lugs have historical roots. Overall, the model stands out with its perfectly retro balance.

Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 Chronograph. © Vacheron Constantin

It was initially launched in the shape of a one-of-a-kind creation in March 2015, within the framework of a partnership between IWC and the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. But a model like the Portofino Monopusher couldn’t fail to have a more widespread diffusion. So it is during Watches & Wonders that this large 45 mm (albeit slender) chronograph emerges from the red carpet universe to reach the average mortal … who can afford it. Its first steps in real life are being taken in white gold with a taupe or cream dial to go with a red gold case. One must remember what makes this model so special. Chronographs with very lengthy running time exist virtually nowhere else. This makes sense because the brand was one of the first to offer a seven-day movement in a wristwatch. 

Roger Dubuis enlivens its flagship range with a surprising metal – bronze. More sports-focused and in the nautical sphere in particular, bronze takes its place in the Excalibur range, including inside. The dark yellow-brown shimmering gleam of these dials and their ability to acquire a patina are the perfect complements to a masculine wardrobe. The brand promotes this relationship with photos used for the occasion, but the metaphor itself makes sense. The masculine wardrobe consists of cared-for elements, whose well-worn rather than worn-out appearance is obvious – shoes with a patina or suits worn for more than a season. Loyalty to well-made things leads to their carefully mastered ageing and even enhancement, all marked with the intimate stamp of their owner. An Excalibur 42 Automatic fits perfectly into this definition of well-loved objects.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic. © Roger Dubuis

It hadn’t been spotted for a long time but it hasn’t aged a bit. At the time of its launch the RM022 Aerodyne was one of Richard Mille’s most innovative watches with its honeycomb structure, introduced at a time when the brand was in the process of demonstrating all its breakthrough ideas in the realm of materials. Since then, it has particularly focused on NTPT carbon, which is combined with pink gold in the RM022 limited edition for Asia. Parallel to this, Richard Mille is launching a new ‘artistic craft-type’ model despite the term not being part of the vocabulary of the Maison. There is nothing soft and gentle about the RM 26-02 Tourbillon Evil Eye. Its vocation is rather as a talisman against the evil eye by representing it in a somewhat disturbing guise (reminiscent of the Eye of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings).

To see a slideshow of the timepieces, click on the image at the top of the article.