What really impressed us at the first international watch fair of the year?

The first Watches and Wonders, which replaces the legendary Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), took place at the end of April. But what was different was that the international watch fair was not held at the Palexpo convention centre in Geneva, Switzerland—the typical venue for SIHH since 1991. Instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic that has struck the whole world, Watches and Wonders 2020 was hosted on a digital platform, giving global watch buffs a chance to see the year's novelties from 17 maisons, including Hermès, Speake-Marin and Richemont-owned brands such as Cartier, Montblanc and Vacheron Constantin, at the same time as the trade and press.

Online or offline, pandemic or not, it was business as usual at the fair as the participating brands continued to push boundaries in order to impress the cognoscenti. Most of the creations are clearly skewed towards being commercial-friendly, which is a right tack to adopt given that the retail scene for the first and second quarters of 2020 look extremely bleak. It's a skill and also an art form to develop timepieces that watch lovers the world over have a soft spot for, so there is no shame to focus on creating "commercial" pieces. But among the glut of retail- and customer-centric wristwatches seen at Watches and Wonders 2020, there were some horological bright spots that grabbed our attention. Here, we compile the 10 creations that impressed us. 

1 / 10

Cartier Tank Asymétrique

In 1917, Louis Cartier introduced the iconic Tank watch. It was revolutionary because rectangular timepieces were rare during a time when most watches were round. Because of its popularity, the Tank saw many variations, one of which was the Parallélogramme or Losange in 1936. Everything on the dial was shifted 30 degrees to the right, resulting in the rectangular case of the original Tank transforming into a diamond. Cartier refreshes the beautiful parallelogram-shaped watch with the new Tank Asymétrique, which comes either skeletonised or with time only. All versions measure 47.15 x 26.2 mm—way bigger than the original and definitely boasting more prominent wrist presence—and are manual-winding and limited to only 100 pieces each.

Tatler says: It's not a regular case shape but we think the time-only variations—platinum with ruby cabochon on crown; pink gold with sapphire cabochon on crown; and yellow gold with sapphire cabochon on crown—will appeal to design buffs with a love for geometry. 

2 / 10

A Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater

When it debuted in 2015, the A Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater grabbed everyone's eye for being the world’s only watch with a mechanical jumping numerals display with a decimal minute repeater. Its popularity among the Lange die-hards was unprecedented. Five years later, it now comes in a limited 30-watch edition in white gold with a deep-blue dial. (The original was in platinum.) Watch buffs will recognise that the aesthetic treatment is similar to the commemorative creations for the brand's 25th anniversary.

Tatler says: Only 30 pieces will be produced for and this is a boutique-exclusive creation. But there are 33 boutiques worldwide. You do the math. 

3 / 10

Hermès Arceau Cheval Cosmique

When the Hermès Arceau was designed by Henri d’Origny in 1978, he gave it a sober allure that has transcended time and trends to remain relevant even till today. The maison combines its beauty with the top-notch creativity and craftsmanship of Italian artist Gianpaolo Pagni to create the Arceau Cheval Cosmique. The artwork features graphic undulations with the silhouette of a horse from Émile Hermès’ private collection—a trotting horse is transposed on a hand-engraved wavy motif.  

Tatler says: One for the art buff. 

4 / 10

IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide

Tatler Asia
Above A vintage IWC Yacht Club

This is the year of the Portugieser for IWC Schaffhausen as it releases a full array of creations for the collection. While the high complication pieces are impressive, it is the Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide that stands out the most. On the aesthetic front, it's a handsome piece with a 5N gold case and midnight blue dial with a matching rubber strap. Mechanics-wise, it's a workhorse as it is equipped with the IWC-manufactured 82835 automatic calibre that features a Pellaton winding fitted with ceramic components and offers a power reserve of 60 hours. But its talking point is the newly developed tide indication—a subdial at 6 o’clock indicates the expected times for the next high and low tide, while the double moonphase display at 12 o’clock shows spring and neap tides. It shows off the smart functions of a mechanical watch, proving the fact that wristwatches still have cachet in a digital world today. 

Tatler says: Who really needs a tide indication? Likewise, who needs a 780hp V8 turbo combustion engine? It's definitely not a need but it will be the icebreaker in many conversations that the wearer will have. 

 

5 / 10

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication

Last year, Jaeger-LeCoultre charmed the watch world with two chiming timepieces, the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel and the Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle. And it's not letting up on its pursuit for excellence as it launches the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication at Watches & Wonders 2020. This limited edition—eight pieces in rose gold and white gold each—features a minute repeater and a celestial vault, which is a celestial disc with star chart indicating the constellations in the northern hemisphere on the dial, as well as an orbital flying tourbillon. 

Tatler says: Housed in the new Master Grande Tradition case—also used in last year's minute repeaters—this complicated watch is testament to Jaeger-LeCoultre's ability to meld its artistic and horological abilities into one beautiful creation. 

6 / 10

Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H

Housed in a 42mm bicolour case made of stainless steel and a bezel made of a special bronze alloy and paired with a black, hand-crafted Nato strap, the Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H is an interesting piece. It's not a complicated timekeeper—it tells hours and minutes. But it can also function as a compass. The red-tipped hand tells the direction on the beige ring that runs around the dial periphery, with markers for approximately every five degrees and cardinal points in red.

Tatler says: Not necessarily the most useful function in the urban jungle, the compass may come in handy when heading into the great outdoors—something that urbanites will appreciate more post-pandemic. 

Tatler Asia
Above Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H
7 / 10

Panerai Luminor Marina Fibratech

On the 70th anniversary of its Luminor range, Panerai releases a high-tech version of the iconic watch that also gives a sneak peek into the brand's future. The Luminor Marina Fibratech is a result of the state-of-the-art technical expertise of the Panerai Laboratorio di Idee, its research and development facility. Its case is largely constructed out of Fibratech, a composite made out of natural and eco-sustainable row fibres. It is 60 per cent lighter than steel, extremely corrosion-resistant and boasts a highly non-homogenous matte grey appearance. The Fibratech case is complemented by the bezel, the crown and the crown bridge lever, all of which are made of Carbotech. It is another proprietary composite of the brand. Its navy strap is also made in-house, using Sportech—a woven material that gives a waterproof rubberised effect.

Tatler says: Panerai's investment in its Laboratorio di Idee is paying dividends as it now has many technological innovations to call upon for its new creations. Also, they form the starting block for newer and more advanced research that can be employed in the future.   

Above The Piaget Limelight Gala Precious Aventurine Glass Dial is set with 57 diamonds using the Serti Descendu technique and limited to 200 pieces
8 / 10

Piaget Limelight Gala

The Piaget Limelight Gala gets a new breath of fresh air as the maison updates the collection, taking inspiration from an iconic model created in 1973. The sensual curves, cambered case and asymmetrical lugs that extend from each side of the case onto the bracelet remain but the new Limelight Gala now comes with a perfectly integrated case and lugs that are combined with the hallmarks of Piaget—exquisite gemstones, ornate dials, sumptuous gold bracelets and world-class savoir faire.

Tatler says: The entire new Limelight Gala collection encapsulates the four pillars of Piaget—The Art of Movement, The Art of Gold, The Art of Colour and The Art of Light—which is a feat given that it is tough to propagate a brand vision throughout every single creation. 

9 / 10

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Diabolus in Machina

Roger Dubuis combines a single flying tourbillon with a minute repeater to create the Excalibur Diabolus in Machina, a complex-looking timepiece that boasts streaks of electric aquamarine thanks to the use of a type of cobalt chrome. This treatment immediately lends it an energetic, daring and futuristic appeal—very much in the same vein as the brand's creations in recent times. On its dial at 11 o'clock is a disc marked with the words "Hours", "Quarters" and "Minutes", which turns upon the activation of the minute repeater and indicates the time intervals being chimed. Roger Dubuis has also added a safety feature for the watch in the form of a lever placed between 3 and 4 o’clock. It informs the wearer if the watch is in “manual winding” or “time setting” mode—this prevents damage to the movement, especially if the wearer attempts to adjust the watch while the minute repeater chimes. Interestingly, for its minute repeater, the watchmaker tunes it to the sound of the tritone, a musical interval composed of three whole tones. The tritone is also known the Diabolus in Musica chord, banned in medieval religious music because it supposedly conjures the devil, hence inspiring the watch's name. 

Tatler says: As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. And Roger Dubuis proves it right with this horological masterpiece. 

10 / 10

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon

The Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon is the brand's first self-winding tourbillon for women. It comes in either pink or white gold but the latter is the one that demonstrates the wide-ranging crafts that the watchmaker is capable of. The white gold case, dial and lugs are encrusted with 599 brilliant- and baguette-cut diamonds amounting to some 6.5 carats. Such is Vacheron's superior gem-setting skills and eye for aesthetic that the diamonds on the dial look like they are arranged on different levels. Coupled with the tourbillon sitting pretty at 6 o'clock on the dial, the bejewelled watch is a sight to behold. It's sophisticated, beautiful and highly technical at the same time. 

Tatler says: The watch's calibre 2160 is impressively slender (only 5.65mm in height) and has only 188 components but it can run comfortably for about 80 hours. Besides ensuring the excellent performance of the tourbillon, Vacheron spares no effort in its aesthetics too. The bar of its open-worked tourbillon carriage in the shape of a Maltese cross is entirely hand-bevelled, a procedure that takes the artisan almost 11 hours. All these details mean that the Genevan watchmaker understands what its female clientele wants, and not just a sparkling version of a man's watch.