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Holger Christmann at Watches & Wonders: Highlights, surprises and more
Guest article

Holger Christmann at Watches & Wonders: Highlights, surprises and more

Holger Christmann

In order to track down the latest trends in the industry, we asked Holger Christmann to summarise his impressions of Watches & Wonders for us this year. As a proven expert with decades of experience and the best connections, he was in Geneva and examined the innovations on site. In the following, he presents the most exciting and unusual models from Rolex, Tudor, Cartier, etc.

Guest article by Holger Christmann

Holger Christmann was editor-in-chief of the German watch periodical Uhren-Magazin. He the publisher and editor-in-chief of FEATURE (www.featuremagazin.de), a cultivated luxury magazine in German with topics from current affairs, style, watches and culture.

In 2022, the Watches and Wonders watch fair in Geneva was held for the first time again with a physical presence - a blessing after two years of purely virtual new watch presentations. Finally, one could put real watches on one's wrist again, shake hands with real (and largely unmasked) makers and colleagues. With Rolex, Patek Philippe and other former Baselworld exhibitors setting up their colossal stands at Geneva's Palexpo in addition to the illustrious Richemont brands (Cartier, IWC, A. Lange & Söhne, among others), the W&W Days are now finally the watch world's highest holiday. This is where the world's most important brands come together. What trends were to be seen? Brands whose stainless steel watches recently experienced enormous hype, such as Rolex and Patek Philippe, continued their move towards precious metals. Materials like ceramics, titanium and platinum are en vogue. A lot of creativity goes into original dials. One trend seems to be granulated dials. But each brand, as always, sets its own trends. Here are my personal favourites:

Most Discussed Novelty: Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II "Sprite

Every year, watch lovers eagerly await the Rolex novelties, experts making predictions weeks in advance about what to expect. But the Geneva brand with the crown has always managed to surprise its fans. At Watches & Wonders 2022, the new version of the Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II with a bicolour cerachrome bezel in green and black was the most discussed watch. The reason: its crown is built into the left side of the case. This makes it perfect for left-handers. However, they only make up ten percent of the population. Officially, the watch is not specifically intended for left-handers. It is also aimed at people who like to wear their watch on their right wrist, even if they are right-handed. There are apparently more of them than assumed. Technically, Rolex accomplished the conversion by turning the movement 180 degrees and designing a new date display. The watch is powered by calibre 3285 with its particularly efficient Chronergy escapement, Rolex's own amagnetic Parachrom hairspring and seventy hours of power reserve.

The novelty should seamlessly follow on from the hype surrounding earlier two-tone GMT-Masters II. The first GMT-Master, the reference 6542, was launched by Rolex in 1955 in response to the rapid growth of civil aviation. The success of the time zone watch could be seen in the fact that it was featured in a James Bond film in 1964. Honor Blackman wore it in the role of Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger". In 1982, the Geneva-based company introduced the GMT-Master II, whose automatic movement allowed the hour hand to be adjusted independently of the other hands - saving time when travelling to another time zone. In 2018, the launch of the time zone watch with a two-tone Cerachrom bezel in blue and red ("Pepsi") and the new calibre 3285 caused a "Pepsi" mania. This was followed in 2019 by the no less successful blue and black "Batman" (the epithets are given by the fan community, not Rolex itself). The new GMT-Master II in the bezel colours green and black (for connoisseurs: the shade of green is the same as on the Rolex Submariner of 2020) has already lost its nickname: "Sprite" or, as the more subtle think: "Starbucks".

The underrated classic: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King

The Air-King is one of those Rolex classics that is unfairly overshadowed by the Submariner, GMT-Master II and Daytona. As the name suggests, the watch is aimed at kings of the air. Rolex Oyster watches were already in demand among pilots in the 1930s due to their robustness and excellent readability. The Air King was launched in 1945. In 2016, Rolex revived the line with a muscular, sporty look. Since then, the 3131 calibre has been ticking away inside - the movement with an amagnetic coating that also powers the Rolex Milgauss. In 2022, Rolex will lighten the Air-King's load with this shield. This will make the Air-King noticeably lighter by ten grams. The reason for dispensing with the anti-magnetic jacket: the new calibre 3230, introduced in 2020 and now powering the Oyster Professional Air-King, offers enough protection against magnetic fields in everyday life: through the in-house Parachrom hairspring and a Chronergy escapement with armature and escape wheel made of a nickel-phosphorus alloy, whose efficiency is 15 percent higher than that of the predecessor escapement. The additional shielding is reserved for the Milgauss, which has always been designed for extreme technical and scientific applications in the vicinity of strong magnetic fields. The new Air-King is also equipped with crown protection and a Twinlock crown. Visually, it can be recognised by a small change: The minute 5 has been preceded by a 0 for reasons of dial symmetry. Incidentally, the price difference between the old and the technically enhanced Air-King is only 150 euros - not much money for so much updating.

Best value for money No. 1: Tudor Black Bay Pro

In recent years, Tudor has established itself as a strong brand in its own right. The connoisseur knows: Tudor combines the uncompromising technical quality standards of the parent company Rolex with hardly operationally relevant savings in the choice of materials. Rolex stainless steel cases, for example, are made of the particularly scratch-resistant Oystersteel alloy, while Tudor uses the more common 316L stainless steel. Rolex bezels are made of its own Cerachrom ceramic, while Tudor's are made of aluminium or stainless steel. Where Rolex uses gold indices, Tudor's are made of brass. Otherwise, Tudor also lives by the credo of building reliable watches in such a way that after-sale problems do not even occur. In 2022, Tudor launched a completely new model: the Black Bay Pro. It comes with a GMT function and is vaguely reminiscent of the Rolex Explorer II, exuding robustness and reviving the tradition of Tudor's Tool Watches. In the 1950s, Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf equipped polar expeditions with Tudor watches like the Oyster Prince to demonstrate their resilience. The Black Bay Pro is water-resistant to a depth of 200 metres, exceeds COSC specifications in terms of accuracy and is equipped with Tudor's manufacture movement calibre MT5652, which is fitted with an amagnetic silicon spring and has a power reserve of 70 hours. With a diameter of 39 millimetres, the Black Bay Pro is a small powerhouse. It has pretty visual details such as the yellow hand for the reference time and the Tudor-typical snowflake hands. There is a choice of a hybrid strap in rubber and leather or riveted bracelet in 316L stainless steel with TUDOR "T-fit" buckle and quick adjustment system. In 2010, Tudor was the first luxury brand to use highly robust textile straps from the traditional manufacturer Julien Faure near St.-Etienne. For me, they are the first choice on a Tudor watch.

Best value for money No. 2: Tudor Black Bay Chrono S&G

A flashy contrast to the new Black Bay Pro is the Black Bay Chrono S&G. The Black Bay Chrono harks back to the Tudor Oysterdate chronographs of the 1970s. S&G stands for the combination of stainless steel and gold. The watch is powered by the relatively new MT5813 manufacture movement, which was created in collaboration with Breitling. Tudor supplemented the Breitling Calibre 01 with its own high-precision regulating organ and refined its surfaces.

Nonplusultra an Eleganz: Cartier Santos Dumont

Cartier offers the contrast programme to the many watches that impress with outdoor qualities. Year after year, the Parisian brand of the century proves that not all timepieces have to be designed by polar explorers and for climbing the Himalayas. Elegance and finesse of design are at least as desirable. Louis Cartier took this maxim to heart when he created the world's first pilot's watch for an eccentric friend, the aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont: the Santos de Cartier, named after him. In 1904, it was not only the first wristwatch for men (which proves Cartier's innovative spirit). It is also a design icon to this day. The pioneering act lives on today in two versions: the Santos de Cartier and strictly limited editions called Santos-Dumont. What is the difference? The Santos is wider and sportier, with a heptagonal, nut-shaped crown with a crown protector. A precious stone is hidden inside. The limited-edition Santos-Dumont has a straighter and narrower design, with the gemstone cabochon protruding clearly from a crown of pearls. The Santos-Dumont is more similar to the original model, and the limited editions captivate with fine materials. At Watches and Wonders 2022, Cartier now presented three versions of the classic: in beige and gold, black and steel, and Bordeaux and platinum (pictured). The dials are covered in a fine, translucent lacquer that adds shine and depth. In the version shown, the crown with a cabochon-cut ruby and the strap in bordeaux alligator leather match. A real piece of jewellery that catches the eye. Inside ticks the ultra-fine hand-wound 430 MC calibre with a 38-hour power reserve (a modification of Piaget's famous 430P manufacture calibre). The version shown here, with its burgundy lacquer, is limited and numbered to 150 pieces.

Extravagant Dress Watch: Cartier Privé Tank Chinoise

Cartier was the most important watch designer of the 20th century - perhaps even ahead of Royal Oak inventor Gérald Genta. One example is the Tank Chinoise from 1922, which was a tribute to the architecture of Chinese temples at a time when Art Deco was rediscovering Far Eastern forms and materials. Cartier translated the geometric form of its porticoes into overlapping horizontal and vertical side rails. In 2022, the Tank Chinoise celebrates its 100th birthday. Cartier is celebrating this anniversary with three ultra-slim, sleek versions with bevelled horizontal side bars in rose gold, yellow gold and platinum, as well as three spectacular skeletonised versions. Designed in the style of traditional Chinese windows, the openworked dial allows a view of the gears of the movement. Black and red lacquer on the bars are reminiscent of Chinese craftsmanship. The skeletonised 9627 MC movement was developed by Cartier especially for the Tank Chinoise. The skeletonised versions are limited to 100 to 20 pieces (version with 161 brilliant-cut diamonds). Predicate: World Cultural Heritage.

Most original case: IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph

When people think of ceramics, they think of vases and plates. Technical ceramics are in demand when the going gets tough. It's not for nothing that the brake discs of a Porsche are made of ceramic. IWC is a pioneer in the use of high-tech ceramics. As early as the 1980s, the Schaffhausen-based company put the Da Vinci perpetual calendar into fired cases. To give the ceramics their respective colours, zirconium oxide is combined with other metallic oxides. The raw materials and the mixing ratio are different for each colour. In 2019, IWC introduced the Pilot's Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition "Mojave Desert", a Top Gun model made of sand-coloured ceramic. In 2022, new colours will be added: forest green ( IWC Woodland) and white (IWC Lake Tahoe). There is also a variant of the Pilot's Watch in ceratanium, a material developed by IWC that is hard and scratch-resistant like ceramic, but also light and robust like titanium. The colours have been registered by Pantone. The new Top Gun chronographs are powered by the IWC manufacture calibre 69380.

The sportiest timepiece: TAG Heuer Carrera x Porsche Limited Edition

Last year, Porsche and TAG Heuer entered into a partnership. The newlyweds are now celebrating with a Limited Edition of the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph...: The case is coated with diamond-like carbon (DLC). The scales, crown, Porsche lettering on the bezel, Superluminova and strap seams glow in Porsche racing yellow, the dial gleams metallically, and the chronograph displays are as grainy as grippy asphalt. The in-house calibre 02 with column wheel, vertical clutch and 80-hour power reserve provides plenty of horsepower under the bonnet. Nice detail: the flywheel mass is reminiscent of a Porsche steering wheel.

Rediscovery of the Year: Baume & Mercier Riviera

The 1970s are fondly associated with polygonal stainless steel icons like the Royal Oak and the Patek Nautilus. But there was another related icon that came after the Audemars Piguet classic and before the Nautilus: the Riviera by Baume & Mercier, launched in 1973. It is dodecagonal. David Chaumet, the new CEO, rediscovered it - and proved a lucky hand with it. Part of the watch's charm is the semi-transparent dial with waves and mountains, as they are known to meet on France's and Italy's Riviera. Those who buy the Riviera as a three-dial watch should choose the Riviera Baumatic model. It is equipped with the highly praised Baumatic calibre (BM13-1975A). The movement was developed by the Richemont Group exclusively for Baume & Mercier and offers a power reserve of five days. Thanks to the use of silicon and other amagnetic materials, it offers magnetic field protection of up to 1500 gauss.

Best Modernised Classic: Patek Philippe Calatrava

Patek Philippe surprised us at the fair with a completely new case for the Calatrava. In the white gold Ref. 5226G, the conservative Clou de Paris décor typical of Patek moves from the bezel to the flank of the case, giving it an interesting grip. The bezel has a bright polished finish. The Roman numerals are replaced by Arabic numerals, and the dauphine hands are replaced by seringue hands. They owe their name to their resemblance to a hypodermic syringe. The new, vintage-style granulated dial is particularly striking. It is made by Cadrans Flückiger in Saint-Imier, a dial specialist that has been part of Patek Philippe since 2004. The grainy structure of the dial is said to be reminiscent of the cases of old cameras. The new Calatrava is a dress watch for the 21st century - without betraying the tradition of the watch.

Best Retro Design: Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222

One of my Watches and Wonders highlights is the reissue of the Vacheron Constantin 222 model. The original came out in 1977, on the 222nd anniversary of the manufacture. With its ultra-thin design - the movement was a mere 3.05 mm high, the watch itself measured 7 millimetres in height - and its seamless strap connection (the strap was screwed to the case), it looks like an emblem of the 1970s. It recalls the time when luxury was enjoyed light-heartedly, James Bond was played by the self-deprecating Roger Moore and cars like the Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spyder, the BMW M1 or the Mazda RX-7 had a futuristic touch. The look of the watch was designed by the German Jörg Hysek. The Historiques 222 uses the latest technology: the calibre 2455/2 operates at a frequency of 4 Hz (compared to 2.75 Hz in the original model) and has a power reserve of 40 hours. The case back is open. Hands and indices glow lime green at night. Otherwise, the revival remains true to the original. "Automatic" is written in the old typography. The bezel is fluted like in the 1970s. The Maltese Cross emblem in white gold sits in the bottom right corner, as before. The 37-millimetre-diameter case is made of 18-carat 3N yellow gold, the dial is gold-coloured, the bracelet is made of 18-carat 3N yellow gold and has a vertical satin finish.

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