Prime time: The ultimate 2021 watches report
August 5, 2021
If you’re counting the hours until social distancing measures are relaxed again, why not focus on recalibrating your style armoury? Truly, there’s never been a better time to invest in a new watch to perk up your wrist and your wardrobe’s accessory department, since there are so many great deals to be had right now. From Cartier to Piaget and A. Lange & Söhne to Vacheron Constantin, the world’s top watchmaking houses have dutifully prepared an awe-inspiring array of novelties to satisfy even the most selective of horological aficionados
A. Lange & Söhne
A. Lange & Söhne takes craftsmanship very seriously, making even the smallest details of its timepieces by hand. At Watches and Wonders 2021, it unveiled new additions to this year’s production, featuring some familiar favourites with serious upgrades.
The Lange 1 is an iconic watch with its clean aesthetic, off-centre dial arrangement and outsize date. The Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar marks the first time in its nearly 30-year history that it has a perpetual calendar, featuring a new calibre L021.3 movement. It also adds a lovely moonphase display that appears against a light blue sky during the day and a dark blue starry sky at night.
Limited to only 150 pieces, it comes in two versions: pink gold with a red-brown leather strap and a solid silver dial, or white gold with a brown leather strap and a solid pink gold dial.
The Triple Split was the first mechanical split-seconds chronograph that could measure additive and comparative times for as long as 12 hours. Now, A. Lange & Söhne is releasing a limited-edition version in pink gold, featuring a gorgeous deep blue dial, a rhodiécoloured subsidiary dial and the calibre L132.1 movement.
Bvlgari hit it out of the park at Watches and Wonders. First, it showcased its watchmaking expertise by beating its own record of the slimmest perpetual calendar with not one but three new versions of an even slimmer Octo Finissimo, including a limitededition collaboration with Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
Then, it unveiled the masterpieces that came from combining that expertise with master jewellery-making skills.
At first glance, the brand’s iconic Serpenti cuff might look out of place at a watch show, but take a closer look at the Serpenti Misteriosi Cleopatra cuff watch, and you will see, nestled under a faceted 5-carat hexagonal see-through rubellite, a diamond-set dial. Filling out the rose gold case are eight other brightly faceted hexagonal stones surrounded by nearly 4,000 snow-set diamonds.
If you’re looking for something equally bold, but in the more traditional form of a watch, Bulgari also brought a contemporary update to the Divissima and Astrale Cocktail watches. Just like the Cleopatra cuff watch, they feature vivid gemstones set amongst gleaming diamonds. If whimsical exuberance could be packaged into a wearable timepiece, it would be these two classic watches.
Cartier‘s newest releases are a celebration of its iconic designs, featuring new interpretations and revivals of some old classics. Our favourites are modern takes on two designs from its archives – the Tank and Cloche de Cartier.
The Cartier Tank Must is a fusion of two of its most iconic models: the instantly recognisable Tank and the wildly popular Must de Cartier. Among the four versions released, the most exciting is the Tank Must with Solarbeat Photovoltaic movement, Cartier’s first sustainable timepiece. The photovoltaic cells allow the watch to run for 16 years before it needs a service. There’s more: the watch strap – available in black, blue and light green – is made out of 40 percent plant matter, produced from food waste in Switzerland, Germany and Italy.
The Cloche de Cartier first appeared in 1920, named after the cloche (bell) shape because, when placed horizontally, it resembles a service bell. The Cloche has been revived for 2021 as part of Cartier’s Privé Collection. The new model is powered by the 1917 MC mechanical movement and is available in three case metals: yellow gold, pink gold and platinum. Each model is numbered and limited to 100 units.
Standing out at Watches and Wonders, Chanel infused the event and its greatest hits with a rush of colour. The brand’s watchmaking studio director, Arnaud Chastaingt, reimagined the brand’s most iconic pieces set in a ’90s electronic club with Montres Electro.
Starting with a flash, the J12 Electro Dream makes a bold statement with 46 baguette-cut rainbow sapphires along the bezel. The scratch-resistant case made from black ceramic and steel or white gold only emphasises the riot of neon concentrated in the bezel, indexes and diamond crown from this limited-edition design.
Not to be upstaged by the J12, the Première introduces a neon-rainbow leather band that winds through a triple-row steel chain bracelet and gives a lively, dynamic quality to the design. Though, monochromatic can be just as vibrant as any rainbow, as the Boy·Friend and Code Coco’s neon-pink calfskin straps prove.
If you’re looking for more of a ballroom than a dance floor, Chanel also released the sleeker, demurer Boy·Friend Skeletons and Mademoiselle Privé pieces, and what they lack in colour they make up for in elegance.
Are you in for a shock? Because IWC Schaffhausen presented its latest innovation, the Big Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL, at Watches and Wonders. It’s the first watch to feature the brand’s new patented Sprin-g Protect system, which is based on a cantilever spring that keeps the movement suspended within the case and protected against g-forces caused by various forms of impact.
The innovation took eight years to perfect, which involved advanced simulation tools and a painstaking design process. The Sprin-g Protect system has even been tested in collaboration with Cambridge University to measure the effects of impacts on the movement. The result? Protection from extreme forces from accelerations in excess of 30,000g.
Available in a matte black finish in a futuristic and lightweight IWC-developed material called Ceratanium, the watch is limited to 10 pieces per year and a total of just 30 overall.
Order the watch through your nearest IWC boutique or try it on virtually with the all-new IWC app using augmented reality (available on the Apple App Store for iOS users).
Say hello to yellow – Hublot came out with its first-ever yellow ceramic Big Bang watch at Watches and Wonders. Called the Big Bang Unico Yellow Magic, the watch is made out of a high-tech ceramic created by Hublot’s own R&D department with its metallurgy and materials laboratory.
It took four long years of development to find the sweet spot of temperature and pressure that allowed sintering of the ceramic without burning its pigments. Hublot has accomplished just that while increasing the wear resistance of the yellow ceramic to even greater than that of traditional ceramics (1350 HV vs 1200HV). No longer just black and white, Hublot ceramic is now available in red, blue, beige, green and bright yellow.
Available in a limited edition of 250 pieces worldwide, the new Hublot is for watch lovers looking to add something bright, sunny and optimistic to their collection. From its 42mm case and Unico HUB1280 movement to the bright yellow Arabic numerals and matching rubber strap, this stunning watch is sure to brighten up your days.
If you thought Louis Vuitton’s expertise lay in creating the next It bag, think again; its six latest luxury timepieces, which debuted at Watches and Wonders, are every bit as stylish as its leather accessories.
Starting the line-up, the whimsical Vivienne Bijou Secret features a sparkling Vivienne Monogram flower face crafted in pink, white and yellow gold, set with over 150 brilliant-cut, snow-set diamonds. A moveable face twists aside in a game of hide-and-seek to reveal the watch’s 21mm white gold case and a white mother-of-pearl marquetry dial embellished with the legendary Monogram flower pattern.
Playing with visibility some more, the totally transparent Tambour Moon Flying Tourbillon “Poinçon de Genève” Sapphire is the first of its kind in watchmaking history to be stamped with the Geneva Seal.
With a case crafted entirely from a block of synthetic sapphire, this incredible clear timepiece showcases every detail of its exceptional open-worked manufacture movement, while the carriage design cleverly emulates the shape of the house’s signature Monogram flower.
The timepiece comes in colourless with black PVD-treated titanium horns, blue sapphire with 950 platinum horns or pink sapphire with pink gold horns.
Kicking off Watches and Wonders, the revered Jaeger-LeCoultre unveiled a brilliant new Reverso, the Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque, on the 90th anniversary of the iconic original. The Swiss watchmaker has continuously pushed the boundaries of innovation, craftsmanship and originality with the Reverso, a timepiece most notable for its double-faced case. Now, the Quadriptyque is the grande maison’s most complicated Reverso ever made.
It’s the world’s first watch with four faces, all housed within the famous rectangle-shaped case, displaying an impressive 11 complications, including three displays of lunar information – the synodic cycle, the draconic cycle and the anomalistic cycle. It’s a lot to build within the confines of a 51 by 31 by 51mm space.
The proprietary Calibre 185 manual movement is a masterful work of art, controlling all essential functions of the wristwatch. The ultra-complicated mechanical movements themselves are also testament to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s 188-year heritage of timekeeping. Constructed with white gold, each face is likewise a milestone of its own, with lunar displays constructed with gem-like finishes such as an engraved and lacquered star-flecked sky chart, a three dimensional micro-sculpted pink gold sun, and a micro-enamel, domed Earth.
Montblanc pulled all the stops at this year’s Watches and Wonders, launching five new timepieces. Utilising the strengths of its incorporation with Minerva, Montblanc has spent the last decade integrating the work of the famed manufacture into its own story, creating some truly innovative and beautiful timepieces.
Minerva’s influence can be seen in small details throughout the collection, like the signature on the dial of the Montblanc Heritage Pythagore Small Second Limited Edition 148 and the 1930s military-inspired Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Origins Limited Edition 100.
Montblanc also returns to its own illustrious history with the newest in the Montblanc 1858 line. The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Limited Edition in smoked brown pays tribute to Reinhold Messner’s 2004 trek across the Gobi desert. The timepiece unveils a unique 3D rendering of the desert’s famous Flaming Cliffs, using a highly technical engraving process.
Horophiles will delight in the Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph Limited Edition 18, which features an all-new gold alloy blend composed of 18-carat gold with quantities of silver and iron. The result is a pale yellowy-green hue that makes for a truly striking wristpiece and lends itself well to the piece’s overall retro military aesthetic.
Panerai revealed a total of six new innovative watch lines at Watches and Wonders, featuring exciting technical developments and original cutting-edge materials. Let’s take a closer look at two of the standouts:
The Luminor Marina eSteel is a showcase for one of the Italian watch maestros’s most extraordinary technical achievements to date – eSteel, a steel alloy composed entirely of recycled-based materials. This revolutionary model features a brushed case and dial made solely from eSteel. The timepiece is available in three different dial shades, featuring a stylish light-to-dark gradient effect: Blu Profondo, Grigio Roccia and Verde Smeraldo.
In the new Submersible Bronzo Blu Abisso, Panerai contrasts a chunky pure bronze case with an understated matte blue dial. With a graduated unidirectional rotating bezel, bridge device with a crownprotecting lever and thick sapphire crystal caseback, it has been technically and conceptually configured to withstand the highest pressures during underwater dives.
Available exclusively from Panerai boutiques in a limited run of 1,000 pieces a year, the Submersible has a matching blue vintage suede leather strap with ecru stitching and a trapezoidal bronze pin buckle in bronze.
Following the Swiss brand’s announcement that 2021 would be the final production year of this stainless-steel model, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A marks the occasion with the release of a new olive-green sunburst dial and a variation, the Nautilus 5711/1300A-001, which features a unique combination of stainless steel and baguette-cut diamonds. This new shade joins a limited palette of 5711/1A dials that includes blue, black (gradated), silvery white and a rose gold version.
On the other hand, the Nautilus 5711/1300A-001 features a row of 32 Top Wesselton baguette diamonds that are cut to perfectly match the octagonal bezel of the Nautilus case. The diamonds also function to illuminate the olive green dial, on top of the luminous white gold hour markers and baton hands.
While, visually, both Nautilus models are the same, mechanically there’s a slight difference where we find Patek levelling up the selfwinding calibre 26-330 SC movement—which features several innovations—with a winding system upgrade from the previous calibre 324 SC that powered older Nautilus models.
This year, Piaget took the theme of charting the sun’s movement through the day to create the Limelight Gala Precious Limited Edition, which features gemstones in blue (for the morning sky), yellow (for the sun at its zenith) and pink (for the glow of the setting sun).
A particular model of interest in this collection is the Limelight Gala Precious Sunrise, which will be limited to only 18 pieces. This timepiece features a bezel set with 32 brilliant-cut blue sapphires and 10 brilliantcut diamonds. It comes with a white gold bracelet and 32mm case that houses the maison’s Calibre 501 P1 movement, as well as a dial created from snow-setting 289 diamonds.
Also not to be missed in the collection is the Limelight Gala Precious Rainbow, which showcases Piaget’s expertise in watchmaking, goldsmithing and gem-setting. This timepiece is a first for the maison as it features a rainbow setting of green tsavorites and coloured sapphires set around its distinctive bezel and lugs.
As with the Precious Sunrise, the Precious Rainbow also runs the Calibre 501 P1 movement encased in a 32mm rose gold case with a dial and bracelet that feature the brand’s signature Palace decoration.
Roger Dubuis became the star of the show at Watches and Wonders. Thanks to its exciting partnership with tattoo artist Dr Woo and graffiti artist Gully from Urban Art Tribe, the unveiling of the Excalibur Single Flying Tourbillon watch was just the kind of disruption to status quo the brand promises.
Artfully levitating between the thin, triple-surface hands and sapphire caseback of the Excalibur gleams an expertly designed star. This was no easy feat, as it took by rebuilding the calibre from top to bottom to get the floating effect just right, and the maison’s craftsmanship shows in the repeated two-line pattern throughout the piece.
The limited-edition Excalibur Glow Me Up! pushes the boundaries between horology and modern art, featuring a pink Eon case with 60 baguette-cut diamonds along the bezel. Though, just as stars glow brightest at night, the Excalibur Glow Me Up! shines to reveal a riot of colour glowing beneath the diamonds and across the dial in the dark.
Rolex released it’s new creations at Watch and Wonders – among them the new-generation Explorer and Explorer II, as well as new versions of the Datejust 36 and Cosmograph Daytona. Most striking of all were the diamond-encrusted editions of the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 and Oyster Perpetual Lady-Datejust.
When it first launched in 1956, the DayDate was the first watch to indicate the day of the week spelled out in full, hence its name. Now, the luxury watchmaker is adding some sparkle with 817 diamonds spread across a dial, bezel, 36mm Oyster case and crown clasp attached to a polished alligator leather strap.
There are three colour options: coral on the yellow gold model, turquoise on the white gold version and burgundy on Everose gold (Rolex’s version of pink gold).
Not content to just jazz up one classic watch, Rolex is adding diamonds all over another. In the new gem-set version of the Lady-Datejust, the yellow gold timepiece contains 1,089 brilliant-cut diamonds – 7.5 carats in total. On its own the dial, featuring yellow gold roman numerals with a black PVD coating for contrast, is paved with 291 diamonds.
TAG Heuer honoured more than 40 years of pushing limits with an upgrade at Watches and Wonders. The brand unveiled the updated Aquaracer Professional 300, crafted to be durable and functional, while saluting the popular 1978 Ref. 844 design, following the wearer to any extremes they may travel to for years to come.
The new model upholds the brand’s reputation for versatility, offering stainless steel and titanium Grade 2 cases, luminescent hands and indexes, as well as water resistance up to 300 metres. In the upgrade, the case, bezel and bracelet have been slimmed down and the lugs shortened for a lighter, more ergonomic touch. The caseback also boasts the iconic scaphander diving suit, representing the brand’s heritage and mission.
Though, the most notable design is the limited edition tribute to the Ref. 844, which, along with its Grade 5 titanium case and black opaline dial, has a black perforated rubber strap for a more vintage feel that will last decades.
At this year’s Watches and Wonders, Tudor unveiled a total of five new watches including new versions of its Black Bay Chrono and the popular Black Bay Fifty-Eight models.
Marking half a century of its chronographs, Tudor relaunched its Black Bay Chrono model in steel with a reworked case and two “panda” dial options (matte black or opaline) with a 41mm diameter. Famed for its “snowflake” hands, the new Black Bay Chrono also houses a Tudor Chronograph Calibre MT5813 with a 70-hour power reserve inside a slimmed-down 14.4mm thick case.
Next up is Tudor’s first Black Bay Fifty-Eight model in silver with an open caseback. The Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925 comes in a soothing taupe and silver colourway with a 39mm case, domed dial, “snowflake hands” and Tudor Calibre MT5400 movement with a 70-hour power reserve.
Then, there’s the new Black Bay Fifty-Eight 18K, the first Tudor diver’s watch in yellow gold with an open caseback. The golden-green dial and bezel, contrasted with yellow gold, give it a rich appearance. The “snowflake” hands glow in a Swiss Super-LumiNova luminescent material and the strap comes in green jacquard fabric or dark brown alligator.
At Watches and Wonders, Vacheron Constantin celebrated 100 years of changing perspective. It first began a century ago, on the wrist of a driving enthusiast careening down winding roads, wasting away the afternoon, before cutting a rug at the local speakeasy. Back in 1921, the Swiss brand released its first diagonally tilted American 1921 watch in a small USA series. Now, it’s bringing back the thrill of the Roaring Twenties with the Historiques American 1921.
Just like its predecessor, the Historiques boasts a uniquely elegant time display turned 45 degrees, with a matching crown that rests comfortably between 1 and 2 o’clock. A cushion-shaped case in white gold evokes the retro-chic feel of this modern watch.
The Collection Excellence Platine, a limited-edition individually number 100-piece line, switches out gold for a 950 platinum case and dial, accentuated by white gold hour markers, and adds a pop of colour with the dark blue alligator strap crafted in Milan by leather goods company Serapian.
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