Watches And Wonders 2022: What We Learnt

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Watches And Wonders 2022: What We Learnt

Words by Mr Chris Hall

7 April 2022

What did we learn from Watches and Wonders 2022? So much. Firstly, how important it can be to bring people together again from across the globe; the watch-o-sphere is a tight-knit community that’s at its best when we can spend time together. Secondly, never attempt to break in a pair of brand new Chelsea boots at an event where you’ll be on the go from dawn til dinner (and beyond). And lastly, always bring extra charger packs; constant Instagramming is not your phone battery’s friend. Oh – wait – you want to know what we learnt about the watches? Fear not, we did take copious notes: these are our hot-take insights from three days immersed in Geneva’s hand-polished horological extravaganza.

01.

Vacheron Constantin stole the show

Everyone has their personal favourites, and with hundreds of new watches on display, you’ll never get every collector on the same page, but my experience from more than a decade of watch shows is that by lunchtime on the first day a clear winner has usually emerged. This year the honour goes to Vacheron Constantin for its re-release of the reference 222.

It would be lying to call it a total surprise – watch designs of the 1970s are red hot, and the 222 is one of the “big three” alongside the Royal Oak and Nautilus, so the smart money would have been it being revived at some point. But it was a well-kept secret until some pretty obvious teasers hit social media the day before Watches and Wonders opened, and crucially when seen in the metal, it was clear Vacheron Constantin had pulled it off to perfection; the size (37mm), weight, quality of finishing and choice of metal (old-school yellow gold) were all spot on. Within hours, all of Instagram proclaimed it their must-have; the few who do end up with one are lucky indeed.

02.

It’s time to travel again

Call it subliminal messaging, but I think the watch industry has got withdrawal symptoms after two years of enforced stasis. Travel-time watches, from “proper” GMT tool watches to fancy-dan world timers were everywhere. You could hardly avoid discussion of Rolex’s green and black destro(a left-handed watch, if you’re not versed in faux-Italian watch-geek speak) GMT-Master II, and younger sibling Tudor also impressed with the Black Bay Pro GMT.

Montblanc added a very handsome GMT to the 1858 range, as well as equipping its unique Geosphere flagship with a chronograph (ahead of sending it to the roof of the world on the wrist of new brand ambassador Mr Nims Purja). Parmigiani Fleurier’s Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante was the connoisseur’s choice, elegant and discreet, while both Jaeger-LeCoultre and Patek Philippe delivered blue-chip world time models with blue dials to match. Special mention must also go to Hermès Timepieces, whose Arceau Le Temps Voyageur wins the prize for “most entertaining to play around with”: as you change the home time with a pusher at eight o’clock, it physically moves the entire hours-and-minutes display around a schematic of the world.

03.

Blue is (still) the colour

Yes, we’ve talked about it before but it still surprised us just how many blue watches launched at Watches and Wonders this year – and in how many shades. Ice blue was the shade to look out for, be it on A. Lange & Söhne’s Odysseus, Rolex’s platinum Day-Date, Czapek’s Antarctique or Laurent Ferrier’s Sport Auto; ironically Montblanc’s 1858 Iced Sea favours a richer, more royal blue, as did Cartier’s Santos, Patek Philippe’s 5270 and Ulysse Nardin’s Marine Torpilleur range. Ressence notably launched an entirely new design in the Type 8, and the only colour available is blue; likewise Chopard, H. Moser & Cie. and Piaget all felt blue was the only hue needed for their Alpine Eagle Tourbillon, Endeavour Perpetual Calendar and Altiplano Ultimate Concept, respectively.

Blue paired with black at Panerai for the Submersible QuarantaQuattro Carbotech, and at Hermès for the next chapter in the H08 story. It was the colour that brought out the best in Baume & Mercier’s re-energised Hampton collection (aided by a silky Milanese bracelet, it must be said) and it was present right across Jaeger-LeCoultre’s launches, almost, from the Polaris Perpetual Calendar to the high complications and Atmos clocks. And typically, Hublot managed to buck the trend and ride it at the same time with a full-ceramic Big Bang Integral in purest baby blue. There must be something in the water.

04.

The high-end is in rude health

He has incredible hair, to the point that he’s built his whole personality around it. His hair is his superpower and his barber is his best friend. He doesn’t let anything but the best touch his barnet – his grooming cabinet is stocked with the full range of masks, pastes and gels from Sachajuan, Patricks and Christophe Robin – and he uses a hair serum religiously to boost growth and keep his impossibly glossy mane in check. That’s not to mention his exhaustive collection of combs, brushes and hairdryer attachments, all of which work to make his coif so well-groomed it could win a rosette at Crufts. But what’s this? Is his hairline… receding? That doesn’t panic our Hair Superhero – he already has the city’s best trichologist on speed dial.

05.

The High-Tech Stranger

Titanium has been cropping up in watches since at least the 1980s and for the last decade or so, has been slowly becoming a staple for dozens of brands. This year, however, it really felt like this most lightweight metal gained critical mass, not just as a practical alternative to steel but as a credible choice for the most luxurious watches of all.

Case in point is A. Lange & Söhne’s Odysseus, Vacheron Constantin’s incredible Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton and Laurent Ferrier’s Sport Auto, as well as Czapek & Cie’s flagship split-seconds chronograph. More expected, but no less significant, were the titanium pieces from Oris (with the ProPilot X), Grand Seiko, TAG Heuer (in its 1000m-rated Aquaracer Superdiver), Tudor and Ressence, which has made a point of using titanium as its default case material for some time.

And let’s not forget arguably the most advanced of all, IWC’s Pilot’s Chronograph Top Gun in Ceratanium, the brand’s proprietary blend of ceramic and titanium, which debuted this year in a stealthy all-black design courtesy of a collaboration with Pantone. If you need a reminder of titanium’s appeal, here’s our guide. Truly, the future’s light.

06.

What we didn’t see…

Finally, it’s worth sparing a minute to think about what was missing in Geneva. The vast majority of watch fans expected Patek Philippe – after the furore generated around discontinuing the Nautilus 5711 in 2021, then releasing the hypest watch of all time in the form of the 170-piece Tiffany limited edition – to immediately announce its successor. But nothing Nautilus-shaped came forth; the official line from Patek being that they still have plenty of references in the collection, from the 5712 right up to the 5740. We were also told that more launches would come later this year, so watch this space. On which note: a couple of big brands held plenty back, notably IWC, which focused all the attention on a small (but extremely well-received) set of Pilot’s Chronograph pieces. We’ll wait to dive into the rest of the range this summer, if you know what I mean.

Likewise at Panerai, it was relatively quiet; the expansion of the Submersible into a new size and with it, more sustainably minded eSteel pieces were the big stories. We hear on the grapevine that having open-sourced its sustainable supply chain for the eLAB-ID concept from 2021, a number of other brands have shown an interest, but sustainability as a theme was fairly scarce at Watches and Wonders itself. It’ll be the focus of a watchmaking summit held by W&W organisers the FHH in September this year, so maybe brands are waiting until then. Lastly, a dose of humble pie for yours truly – having hailed collaboration as the new normal, this year’s fair was hardly awash with cross-pollination. Maybe Omega and Swatch blew everyone else out of the water…

Watch and see