If you know me, you know my love for watches. I was once again fortunate to travel to Geneva last March for One of the largest and most prestigious Watch exhibitions that happens once a year in Geneva and is by invitation only.
in the heart of Geneva, where 48 Maisons exhibited their latest novelties, I experienced, touched, felt and tried the best of the best timepieces! Dancing to the rhythms of Watch Movements, not only I was awestruck by the leading players like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Montblanc, Cartier and many more, but also delighted to discover interesting timepieces from many Independent brands like U-boat, Beauregard, Chronoswiss, etc
What better way to kickstart this year than with watches – something I am so passionate about. Watches and Wonder 2023 recently concluded with a bang. One of the largest watch exhibitions held in Geneva, Switzerland was. This may be my 25th visit, but as always I was left mesmerized by how far the fine watchmaking community has come – the novelties i.e. the new launches, the trends, the booths, the press conferences, all packed in 7 days of events, meetings and presentations. Of course it was not all work and no play. If you know me by now, I live and breathe timepieces! This was all play for me…
This year, 48 watch brands, aka maisons, participated in the exhibition. That is 10 more than last year. What was new this year was that Watches & Wonders was open to the Public on the last 2 days of the exhibition. And we hear the tickets for visitors were all sold out! So yes, bigger, better and crazier.
I caught up with the Man himself, Mr Matthieu Humair – CEO Watches and Wonders Geneva Foundation, on how successful the 2023 edition was and what we could expect in the coming years. He mentioned how more and more young people were at the exhibition and the average age was 35 years old. He also said that while they were all sold out for the public day, the numbers also grew phenomenally as compared to the previous years. And overall, it took almost a year to prepare an exhibition of this stature. With the brands, hotels, logistics and even the government being involved, everyone comes in and contributes their bit to make it a success.
Watches and Wonders 2023 was definitely bigger and crazier than ever. Presenting Seven Strong Trends that I discovered into the land of Watchmaking.
- The first trend was the overarching colour that many maisons embraced and released their masterpeices That was… Grey. Grey is the new black! . To share a few spectacular pieces that left me in love with grey coloured watches were Montblanc’s 1858 iced sea automatic date and 1858- geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000, IWC’s Ingenieur automatic watch, Parmigiani’s Platinum cultural Calendar, Baume & Mercier’s Riviera men’s collection and Taghuer’s Carrera Date watch.
- The second trend I observed was Less is indeed More – Over the years, watch exhibitions invited the watch community- press and retail to experience all the launches for the entire year. While the 2022 edition saw few brands showcasing only 1 or 2 novelties, the 2023 edition saw many brands adopting this trend of Less is indeed More. For Brands like Ulysee Nardin, the entire exhibition revolved around a Single watch, ie Freak. Ms. Virginie Franceries, CMO At Ulysse Nardin with regards to this Freak Nation says that they wanted to focus on their booth and truly make it a Freaky concept – making it innovative, crazy, freaky and of course an interesting photo opportunity for your social media!
While people are freaking out on Ulysse Nardin, the Roger Dubuis booth also focused on their One concept watch – The Monovortex™ Split-Seconds Chronograph, which was the highlight of the booth!
3) Moving on, the next trend and a very interesting trend that I observed was DIALS!! Yes, the face of the watch. I am sure you agree, the first thing we see in a watch is the dial of the watch. This time, the dials did the talking for many brands. Instead of a serene, plain watch face, I saw brands introducing mesmerizing patterns, techniques, enameling, motifs to the dials of the latest launches. Dials have been historically loved by watchmakers for introducing new techniques and craftsmanship.
From Grand Feu style works at Patek Philippe, to textured grey glacier patterned dials at Montblanc—texture is in on the dials. Grand Feu technique allows building up different layers on the dials of the watch. Due to this each layer has to sit beautifully to finally have a smooth enameling of the dial.
Rolex ‘s debut of the emoji watch was the talk of the town! The Day-Date 36 Puzzle Motif, shows an interesting and colourful puzzle design on its face. At 12 o’clock, it replaces the days of the week with the words “Happy, Eternity, Gratitude, Peace, Faith, Love and Hope,” and at 3 o’clock you get a selection of emojis depending on the day of the month.
I also had the chance to experience – live Guilloche engraving on the dial at the Chronoswiss booth, where the craftsman mentioned he can only work on 3 dials per day. Can you imagine the time, minute detailing and fine craftsmanship it takes to achieve this level of perfection? Jaeger LeCoultre booth also did not fail to impress me with their Hand Enamelling and Engraving booths. Dials are truly the new medium for innovation and creation.
IWC introduced a Grid-Dial in their latest Ingenieur Automatic 40mm Timepiece. The dial features a distinctive “Grid” structure, consisting of small lines offset by 90 degrees to each other; it is stamped into the soft iron blank before it is galvanised.
4) Another big trend is that of Titanium Watches – This year at Watches and Wonders, Titanium was definitely on the menu. From Rolex, Oris, Grand Seiko, Chopard, Ulysse Nardin, Hublot, Zenith and so on, each brand had its unique offering in Titanium. Rolex’s Yacht-Master was particularly notable. It’s the second-ever all-titanium watch from the brand, after last fall’s debut of the Deepsea Challenge. We all know Customer has always indeed been the King and I saw that more and more brands are indeed using Titanium,maybe because of its light weight which offers comfort to the customer. Almost every brand that I went to, had an offering in Titanium.
Grand Seiko introduced its very first mechanical chronograph movement at the show, the 6,000 beats per hour 9SC5 Tentagraph in titanium, a metal that the high-end brand has long used, including in its flagship Snowflake watch. I had the opportunity to try this piece and I must say, I instantly fell in love with it!
Hermes launched the Hermès H08 Chronograph that features a satin-finished and polished titanium bezel atop a textured case middle.
The next trend that I would like to talk about is that Watches are getting smaller in size. Yes you heard it right, smaller is what I say. Literally I would say 39mm is the size to go for. For listeners who are new to watch passion I am referring to the width of the watch. At the fair, a lot of brands showcased novelties, they were calling “medium-sized” or small. The Cartier Baignoire Mini Bangle, Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas Self-Winding 34mm, Zenith’s Pilot Automatic, The Panthère de Cartier all proved the same!
Bell & Ross has dropped its standard case size from 42mm to 41mm. Panerai wanted to focus on its Quaranta watches, which are 40mm instead of its standard bigger dial sizes. Is this a step towards inclusivity ? Or are brands inching closer to a genderless World of timepieces?
Mr. Nicholas Andreatta, CEO, Manufacture Roger Dubuis indeed made a very striking statement, when he said why do we have to segment the timepieces into gender buckets? Instead have timepieces of different sizes and lend the choice to the clients. Why can’t Men wear a beautiful timepiece with a pink strap adorned with diamonds and why can’t a woman wear a 47mm double tourbillon? Indeed food for thought!
Moving on, Interchangeable straps continued to rule the reign this year as well. It looks like customers today want to maximize their purchase with changing the look of their timepiece with an interchangeable strap. The younger customer is definitely looking at versatile options and gaining more from the buck spent. And why not !! This also is a step towards sustainability like having one watch serving multiple styles and purpose helping us to protect the environment. In-fact each booth that I walked to, atleast had one timepiece that had an Interchangeable strap option. Be it Montblanc’s 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date watch or Piaget’s new Polo Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin watch or even Zenith’s Defy Skyline Skeleton in Ceramic and so on.
Another observation is that brands are all making efforts towards sustainability which is no longer a trend but a necessity. Sustainability is big and is here to stay. Brands are recognising the same and taking serious measures in contributing towards sustainability. I would like to make a special mention here about Chopard’s commitment towards sustainability.
Its existing Lucent steel, used for the Alpine Eagle sports watch, is already made of 70 per cent recycled steel. By the end of 2023, all Chopard steel watches, including bracelets and cases, will include 80% recycled steel. This proportion will be raised to a minimum of 90% by 2025. Many brands are laying importance to traceability and origins of materials like sourcing ethical gold and diamonds. Mr. Guido Terreni from Parmagani mentioned that they only use energy that 9 households would consume in a year at their atelier. Impressive right?
I’m totally crushing on the Titanium trend and definitely eyeing on a few novelties that I have added to my wishlist. Whether I end up buying or No that’s a secret. Watches & Wonders 2023 did really manage to come back bigger, better, stronger and crazier! That was all about trends from my end. Hope you enjoyed reading the same.