It is the great folly of humankind that we would seek to bind something so ineffable as time, but it also speaks to our great ingenuity that we audaciously endeavor the task of capturing it with such intense skill and artistry.
In a sense, the field of horology has existed ever since human beings stood upright and were able to look at the stars for the first time, notice the changes in the sky above, and measure the distance between the changes. It is time – or the measure of change – and one’s use of it here on earth that motivated modern humans to create the calendar, the clock, and (of course) the watch.
Watchmaking is an ancient pastime that has been refined over centuries, with new mechanisms still being innovated to this day. Timepieces, those symbols of time captured on the wrist, have become one of the world’s foremost luxury status symbols because of the level of craft and expertise that it takes to make and appreciate them. Luxury watches, which can run from a few thousand to several hundred thousand dollars, are more than an indulgence. They are a testament to humanity’s boundless curiosity, integrity, and innovative abilities.
After a seven-hour flight from Dubai, I touched down in Geneva, Switzerland for a first-hand experience at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) for its annual showcase of the world’s most prestigious watches. The event attracted 20,000 visitors, prestigious celebrities, and 35 of the world’s leading legacy watch brands in order to display what’s new, groundbreaking, and exciting in the field of timepiece artistry.
There’s something so sensual about the way Cartier’s new ‘Panthère de Cartier’ watch wraps around the wrist. Its slinky links mean it’s more than just a watch; it also doubles as a piece of fine jewelry. With legions of fans around the world keeping an eye on what Cartier was up to at SIHH, the luxury brand didn’t fail to elate and surprise with beautiful new pieces.
In a posh, circular booth upholstered with foliage, Piaget set out to stun SIHH attendees with two beautiful new styles: an update to the iconic ‘Possession’ line and the innovative new ‘Altiplano Ultimate Concept’ watch that boasts the thinnest design ever created.
First, the Piaget ‘Possession’ watch is already so known that it hardly needs an introduction, but suffice to say that the minimal purity of the watch face, perfectly round circumference trimmed in diamonds, and colorful watch strap exemplify both luxury and simplicity. However, it is the ‘Altiplano’ look that received the most buzz at SIHH – experts were astonished at its slim, record-breaking physique. In fact, Piaget had to take out five new patents in order to fit the calibre and dial inside the case. The craftsmanship of this watch boasts a true labor of love and exalts ingenuity.
Swiss luxury watch company Audemars Piguet was established by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet in 1875, and has been at the forefront of mechanical-watch manufacturing ever since. In fact, it was the first brand to discover the repeater complication, where a watch strikes the number of hours or minutes according to its design.
In 2018, innovations are still going strong at Audemars Piguet, evidenced by the crown jewel of its SIHH appearance, the ‘Royal Oak Concept’ watch, which features the brand’s first ever flying tourbillon. In white gold and diamonds revealed in intricate layers, never has a watch face been more breathtaking. Because of its astonishing beauty coupled with flawless mechanical design, Audemars Piguet’s ‘Royal Oak Concept’ watch shot quickly to the top of our wish list.
For the first time ever, Hermès chose to show at SIHH this year instead of at its typical appearance at Baselworld. With this significant venue change came a slew of new looks, courtesy of the talented watchmakers at Hermès. Inside of one of the event’s most vivid booths – a blue and yellow boutique designed by Dutch artist Levi van Veluw – the luxury brand debuted new styles and cool updates to the classics.
In the latter category, you’ll find the Hermès ‘Carré H’ watch, first released in 2010 and designed by architect Marc Berthier. His love of clean lines and minimal surfaces was a hit and, in 2018, you’ll enjoy a revamped exterior with a colorful second hand, rhodium-plated features, a smooth leather band, and either dark-gray or black-opaline guilloche dials.
Hermès also used the opportunity to boost its signature ‘Arceau’ and ‘Cape Cod’ lines, with the newly updated ‘Arceau Casaque’, ‘Arceau Mythiques’, and ‘Arceau Chronograph’ watches making eye-catching centerpieces to the new expansion. Inspired by the millefiori paperweights created by the Cristalleries Royales de Saint-Louis, Hermès also made “art for the wrist” in the form of its exquisite ‘Arceau Pocket Millefiori’, which featured layers of intricate glasswork that formed a bed of flowers.
Finally, of all the extravagant new releases by Hermès, our favorite was the ostentatious ‘Klitki’ style that debuted at SIHH. Its coruscated surface shines with pavé diamonds, and there are two glistening surfaces between which the diamond-coated watch face is sandwiched. You can also choose from red, navy, purple, and black crocodile bands, each lovelier than the last.
The stars were out in full force for celebrity-favorite Jaeger-LeCoultre. On the SIHH 2018 red carpet, actors Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Imitation Game) and Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) flashed their wrists, showcasing their preferred new styles from the slightly more affordable ‘Polaris’ collection (price points start at AED 24,000/SAR 24,700).
The luxury brand also unveiled the latest additions to its beloved ‘Rendez-Vous’ collection, which was inspired entirely by the color blue – midnight blue to be precise. This sultry hue gave way to the ultra-feminine ‘Night and Day’ style, complete with diamond trim, a midnight-blue dial, gem-set bezel, and an alligator leather strap.
Although Montblanc – better known for its luxury pens – has only been making watches since 1997, its artisan watchmakers have been perfecting the craft since 1707 in the little Swiss village of Le Locle. It also works with a highly respected manufacturer in Minerva, which has been innovating timekeeping mechanisms since the 1880s.
At SIHH 2018, Montblanc had three intrepid new looks with which to wow the crowds. The first is the addition of five new watches to the brand’s storied ‘1858’ line. With this update comes the ‘1858 Automatic’, the ‘1858 Automatic Chronograph’, the ‘1858 Geosphere’, the ‘1858 Pocket Watch Limited Edition 100’, and the ‘1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100’. With a vintage-inspired, mountaineering aesthetic, the rugged ‘1858’ line celebrates 160 years of Swiss watchmaking heritage.
Meanwhile, the ‘Star Legacy’ line was updated with six new watches: the ‘Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon Limited Edition 58’, the ‘Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph’, the ‘Star Legacy Automatic Chronograph’, the ‘Star Legacy Full Calendar’, the ‘Star Legacy Moonphase’, and the ‘Star Legacy Automatic Date’. These gorgeous pieces feature a star guilloché pattern, railway minuterie tracks, and leaf-shaped hands.
Finally, the handsome ‘Timewalker’ line pays homage to Minerva’s 160-year legacy by celebrating the halcyon days of motor racing. Here, speed is the name of the game, hence its ability to mark incredibly brief intervals of time, like 1/100th of a second, with absolute precision.
Vacheron Constantin flexed some serious muscle at SIHH 2018. With an all-new collection called ‘FiftySix’ (based on a water-resistant style from the 1950s that signified the brand’s first foray into automatic movement), this new look is geared toward young watch enthusiasts.
While its look is rooted in history – and it certainly looks like a heritage piece – these watches are as modern in mechanics as it gets. The ‘Traditionelle’ style features Vacheron’s first-ever automatic tourbillon, while others feature a perpetual calendar, a new time-and-date movement, and more.
Van Cleef & Arpels
For the uninitiated, one of the most popular features of luxury watches are its complications, of which there can be one or many. Complications are what they sound like – they are any feature in a mechanical timepiece beyond the display of hours and minutes. That means flying tourbillons, chronographs (stopwatch abilities), calendars, and even alarms are all part of a complicated world of complications.
At SIHH 2018, Van Cleef & Arpels stunned us with the variety and unique structures of its particular complications, handily running away with the prize in this category with the new ‘Lady Arpels Planétarium™ Poetic Complications’ watch and the ‘Poetic Astronomy’ line that features a watch for every zodiac sign. For the former, a sun at the center and lunar revolutions take place in real time to astonishing effect.
All of these features are contained in the crown of the watch, which uncomplicates things a bit by making the watch easy to set and adjust. Tether yourself to the universe with this unique piece and you’ll never lose track of where you are. Likewise, the ‘Poetic Astronomy’ line is filled with imagination, as each star sign is mapped onto the surface of the watch and then illuminated at its star points by LED lights.