What The Experts Think Of 2022’s New Watches
With Watches and Wonders, the global watch fair that took place in Geneva at the start of April, behind us, we’ve now seen most of the new watches for the first half of the year. We’ve given you our hot take on the fair already, but thought we should throw it open to see what our fellow writers, collectors and style gurus think. With big names such as Rolex, Tudor and Patek Philippe joining Watches and Wonders’ regular line-up (hardly devoid of star billing already, with IWC Schaffhausen, Panerai, Cartier and Vacheron Constantin, as well as more than 30 others), this really was a chance to get a read on the industry as a whole. How buoyant was the mood? How brave were the year’s launches? Which watches really impressed the experts? If the picture above hasn’t already given it away, one watch stood out above all others as the connoisseur’s choice.
Mr George Bamford, collector and founder, Bamford Watch Department
It is clear there are some amazing things happening in the industry, especially with new materials. After two years off, being at Watches and Wonders showed we do still need a big event like this as it was a great showcase and really great to see everyone together.
TAG Heuer had a blinder of an event, launching its new dive watch, the Aquaracer Superdiver, which I think is such a great design. It surprised me with its brand new Carrera Plasma Tourbillon watch – the first watch in the world to use lab-grown diamonds as decoration, not just on the dial but all round the case – which I think is amazing. It truly dropped the mic with that one.
The IWC Lake Tahoe and Mojave Desert Pilot’s Chronographs in ceramic were highlights. I loved the monochromatic Pantone style. And of course, the Vacheron Constantin 222. I could talk about Grand Seiko as well, but those were the takeaway watches for me and if it comes down to just one, the Vacheron Constantin 222 really did stand out.
Ms Ming Liu, journalist and author
What really stood out at Watches and Wonders 2022 was that some watchmakers and designers had really dreamed big during lockdown and executed their visions with flair and verve. Creativity was particularly off the charts at Cartier, mostly embodied by a trippy, bold and unexpected Crash Tigrée Métier d’Art number.
Travel was also an emerging trend – no surprise after being grounded for two years. I really love the new Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyager, a kind of hybrid GMT and world timer watch, but done in true Hermès style, complete with a fantastical and fully imagined equestrian world map. Oh and the French house’s fully diamond-pavéd, padlock charm-style Kelly is now firmly on my wish list, too.
Mr William Massena, collector and founder, Massena LAB
I don’t think 2022 will be considered a great vintage, but it is a solid year. The watch industry did its homework and brands are staying focused on what collectors want. The surprise for me was the Cartier Masse Mystérieuse, a beautiful watch that has Cartier taking bold risks again, alongside many much safer bets. Another complex piece that impressed, with its skeletonised movement, cylindrical hairspring and flying tourbillon, was the Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton from H. Moser & Cie. Its off-centre, funky blue fumé sub dial, dotted with prominent luminous hour markers, combines a signature quirkiness with that tall towering tourbillon at a great price. In short, it’s very Moser.
The minimalist Ressence made an even more minimalist watch in the Type 8C. With a mind-boggling cobalt-blue dial, lume-filled engravings that seem to spin and turn on their own accord and a lugless and crownless ambidextrous titanium case, it looked like nothing else on the floor at the Palexpo this year. Looking back, it’s possible that the watch had travelled from the future – the complete opposite of my final highlight. Vacheron Constantin’s Les Historiques 222 in yellow gold is a show-stopping revival of the 1970s cult classic. With a beautiful integrated bracelet, which feels organic in that beautiful yellow gold, and a case shape that recalls many of today’s high collectible offerings from Vacheron Constantin’s contemporaries, Les Historiques 222 will surely be a commercial triumph for the maison, if it isn’t already.
Mr Justin Hast, collector and content creator
Watches are about people and the best part of Watches and Wonders was seeing everyone from the industry under the same roof again. The atmosphere was so buoyant coming off a great year of sales. What stood out for me was a move away from the green-dial madness of 2021 to smaller case sizes and more materials innovation. The indies are still on fire, with the drop-dead gorgeous Blue Origin with titanium case from Laurent Ferrier and the stripped-back purity of the Ressence Type 8.
I thought Chopard wowed with its high-end chiming watches, especially a dress watch in full sapphire case. Another big surprise was the new Odysseus in titanium from A. Lange & Söhne. Never thought I’d hear Lange and titanium in the same sentence. IWC nailed it with the green [Woodland] and white [Lake Tahoe] ceramic Pilot’s Chronographs. I happen to think the new 41mm Ceratanium Pilot’s Chronograph is going to be a runaway success as well. The star of the show? I may not be the only one to say it, but it has to be the Vacheron Constantin 222. I love the confidence to opt for a 37mm case and keep it in yellow gold. For me, it wears and looks better than the original.
Ms Tracey Llewellyn, watch editor, The Telegraph
There may have been fewer fireworks than at previous editions of Baselworld and SIHH – with exceptions including Roger Dubuis’ latest in its Knights Of The Round Table saga – but this is more likely due to market forces than a reining-in from the brands themselves. With approximately 50 new launches, Cartier sparkled on every level. Its flexible mesh Coussin and Tank Chinoise centenary tributes are sure to sell out in record time, while the trio of limited-edition Santos-Dumonts in steel, yellow gold and platinum were miniature lacquered marvels at prices that forced a double-take.
There were two other models that I fell for on the spot. Unsurprisingly, the faithful reissue of the Vacheron Constantin 222 was a universal triumph and, in my opinion, an improvement on the 1977 original by virtue of its super-supple, reworked bracelet.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante is the epitome of simplicity and elegance and such a joy to operate that it forces the question of why nobody has used the complication, usually reserved for a split-second chronograph, in a GMT before. While some have criticised the watch’s lack of a date indicator, I was hooked from the moment the home time hand was described to me by the company’s CEO: “We made that hand in gold because home is gold.”
Mr Charlie Teasdale, style director, Esquire UK
The standout watches at for me sat at either end of the price spectrum. I love Tudor’s new Black Bay Pro, especially on the black and yellow fabric strap. I prefer smaller watches, so the 39mm case is perfect, and I love the numerals on the fixed bezel, which lend it quite a 1990s diver vibe. And with a GMT movement, at a shade under £3,000, it’s a bargain.
At the other extreme, I loved Vacheron Constantin’s 222, which is probably the most mega thing I’ve seen all year. Its origins lie in the astounding watch design boom of the 1970s (Patek’s Nautilus, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak) and the new 222 is just dripping with the steez of that era. It is completely luxurious and yet somehow quite austere for an all-gold watch, and I can’t think of much else at the show that could more clearly state that the wearer has impeccable taste.
An honourable mention must go to Zenith for the new Chronomaster Sport, a thing of mid-century macho beauty.
Mr Arthur Touchot, head of digital strategy, Phillips
This year’s Watches and Wonders – and the watches launched around the show from other brands – showed the industry’s levels of confidence. With watches such as Vacheron Constantin’s 222, Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo 10th Anniversary Sketch and H. Moser’s Streamliner Chronograph Blacker Than Black, it felt like brands were proud to express their distinct personalities.
Cartier demonstrated this perfectly, I thought. There were no new shapes this year. Instead, Cartier found joy exploring beloved forms such as the Santos, Tank and Crash and creating tension between shapes we recognise and materials that we do not associate with them. Take the Tank Chinoise, a watch that has historically been an elegant dress watch. The new Tank Privé Chinoise collection perpetuates this tradition with several pieces made exclusively in precious metals and featuring open-worked dials. But Cartier also introduced a combination of polished and horizontally brushed surfaces typically associated with sportier models, which transforms the watch’s expression.
The new Santos-Dumont triptych went in the other direction. Cartier softened the case’s angular shape and added a layer of coloured lacquer that changes the watch’s interaction with light. My personal favourite was the pink-gold edition, limited to 250 pieces, which marries a pink gold case with beige lacquer.
Mr Carson Chan, Fondation Haute Horlogerie Academy ambassador
I am not sure if it was the two-year absence influencing my opinion or being locked down for so long, but this year’s fair seemed absolutely wonderful, from the designs of the booths to the products, which I think were probably the best in recent years. Consequently, my list of highlights is long.
First, the Van Cleef & Arpels Heures Florales. Everything about this watch is a fairytale, from the aesthetics to the mechanics. You want to look at it every hour just to enjoy seeing the flowers bloom. A. Lange & Söhne’s Odysseus might be the first time that the It-watch is being made in Germany, although Vacheron Constantin’s 222 re-edition is equally brilliant. It’s notably not a limited edition, but it won’t exactly be easy to acquire. Neither will the Cartier Masse Mystérieuse, a design that summarises the brand’s ideology in one single watch. The shape, the intrigue and the technical prowess required – it is not a simple task to build the movement into the rotor itself.
H. Moser’s Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon may be another high-end piece made in tiny numbers, but it’s significant in showing that Moser can run with the big dogs. The industry doesn’t have that many players with the ability to produce such technical pieces completely in-house. Last, Chopard’s Full Strike was already, to me, the best minute repeater and this year’s model in sapphire simply blows me away. Videos don’t do it justice. I have never heard this level of crisp, crystal-clear sound and warmth in a minute repeater.