After a watch fair concludes, inquiring editorial minds coalesce around a single question: what are the trends? As counter-intuitive as it may seem, we think this question is largely irrelevant as far as the annual watch fairs go. As is frequently mentioned, watches and fashion are not the same thing.
Trends matter in fashion because you might quite suddenly find yourself hopelessly out of step with your peers in a matter of months. Not to put too fine a point on it, fashion is also a much bigger business and needs to reinvent itself regularly to stay alive.
In the world of watches, trends take their time to emerge. We are still seeing how the new materials trend, both in watch cases and mechanical components, develops. In fact, this year, there continue to be interesting developments on this front, which will be evident when you get to our selection of watches. To go back even further in time, we are still seeing how the luxury sports watch shapes up. That last one has been playing out since the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak knocked the stuffing out of collectors in the 1970s.
Given this glacial pacing, what we prefer to do is try to see what the watches of today can tell us about tomorrow, as we wrote in our SIHH 2012 highlights piece last year. In fact, this year, there continue to be interesting developments in both sports watches and in new materials, which will be evident when you get to our selection of watches below, and in our pre-SIHH favorites too.
For the SIHH 2013 then, we can report that the world of watches is in good spirits, with a number of brand executives talking openly about renewed optimism. The watches also bear this out, with grander and more complicated watches grabbing the spotlight at Audemars Piguet, Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Parmigiani, Piaget and Roger Dubuis. Jaeger-LeCoultre in particular makes a big push with complicated watches because it is celebrating its 180th anniversary in 2013
Importantly and appropriately though, it is the smaller pieces that lead the way, including a new ultra thin watch from Jaeger-LeCoultre and an entire collection of fine mechanical timepieces for women from Vacheron Constantin.
Without further ado then, here are some of our favorites from SIHH 2013, in alphabetical order.
- Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Double Tourbillon - As you might recall, Cartier is quite famous for its mystery clocks, expressed in various forms throughout the 20th century. In typical form, the hour and minute hands appear suspended in thin air but amazingly continue to function. The Parisian firm introduced the floating hands of time into wristwatches too and this year, they take the idea one step further by isolating and suspending the tourbillon mechanism in space and time.
- Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Double Tourbillon - With more than a hundred years of experience with the idea of mysterious time, Cartier turns out a very cool and highly technical piece here because the double of the name refers to the fact that this is a double tourbillon. The flying tourbillon makes one circuit on its own axis every 60 seconds and a second rotation every five minutes. Isolating this mechanism in this way is visually stunning and, since Cartier already has a simpler piece with floating hands this year, we feel safe in predicting more clever high watchmaking pieces in this mysterious vein.
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Jubilee Ultra Thin - This watch is reportedly the world’s thinnest manual winding mechanical watch and it is significant precisely because of this. Typically, we expect to see this sort of watch from Piaget but they already have a slew of records in ultra-thin watches, albeit automatic ones. Jaeger-LeCoultre has its own traditions in this area that are anything but thin, as evidenced by the manufacture's 1907 pocket watch, the thinnest of its kind at that time.
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Jubilee Ultra Thin - In selecting this watch for this list, we are taking a gamble that Jaeger-LeCoultre will continue down this road and introduce perhaps small complications in ultra-thin guise. As admirers of pure elegance like this, we would like nothing better. Also, the prospect of a good throw-down between two respected manufactures in the thin stakes is exciting and will result in some fantastic watches, we hope.
- Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta Chrono Flyback PAM526 - This is Officine Panerai's first in-house regatta countdown chronograph, with an entirely new chronograph calibre. This watch gives some insights into Panerai's gameplan and its unshifting focus on the world of old school sailing. After releasing several watches honoring or supporting regattas, it is only logical that Panerai would create something with specific sailing-related functions.
- Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta Chrono Flyback PAM526 - While PAM526 is in titanium, the number of variations Panerai could try here boggles the mind. The Neuchatel-based watchmakers for the Italian company have already created versions of this piece without the regatta function (PAM524 and 525) so it is entirely conceivable that other variants are already in the works. Collectors will want to get in on the ground floor here...
- Richard Mille RM 27-01 Rafael Nadal - The movement in this watch is attached to the case by four braided cables; no they are not merely decorative. Always forward-thinking, Richard Mille also continues to explore new materials in watchmaking, with aluminum lithium making an appearance here for the barrel bridges and gear trains. Such fundamental material experiments remind us that watchmakers remain steadfast in advancing their craft.
- Richard Mille RM 27-01 Rafael Nadal - Designed with Rafa himself, this watch explores a marriage between strength and lightness, something all of watchmaking tries in sports watches. RM 27-01 is a mere 19 grams and yet the calibre can take more than 5,000Gs of acceleration. Both elements are due to the case, an anthracite polymer with carbon nanotubes, and the cable suspension system. If nothing else, to see elements of civil engineering in a wristwatch tickles our fancy and perhaps we will see more of this from other watchmakers soon.
- Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine Lady - There has long been a debate about whether women are interested in mechanical watches and, increasingly, watchmakers are laying the groundwork to support this. The Contemporaine Lady bears the Hallmark of Geneva seal of approval, which signals Vacheron Constantin's commitment to serious watches for serious women. In any case, we salute any effort to strengthen the culture of watch appreciation and collecting around the world.
- Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine Lady - The in-house automatic calibre 2450 powers the new Contemporaine Lady. The fact that this is a simple watch is a good sign, in our opinion, because it means the Geneva watchmaker believes that the average (if we can use such a word) lady-of-means is ready to raise her watch-buying habits up a notch...
For more information and pictures on each watch, please see the individual stories below:
Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Double Tourbillon
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Jubilee Ultra Thin
Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta Chrono Flyback PAM526
Richard Mille RM 27-01 Rafael Nadal
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine Lady