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Watches and Wonders Geneva: New Watch Releases for 2024

Feature: Long Read
Words by ROBIN SWITHINBANK

Whether you prefer the analogy that, for watch enthusiasts, the annual Watches and Wonders Geneva fair is like being a kid in a candy shop or the more sober reflection that it’s a tonic for the watchmaking industry, there’s no doubting the joys of bringing 54 of the world’s finest watch companies together under one roof for a week of horological ogling. The 2024 show was another feast for the eyes – and wrists. Here are the Harrods highlights, from Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre to IWC Schaffhausen, Piaget and more.

Sketch of Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon in titanium with a blue dial
Vacheron Constantin
Overseas Tourbillon

 

It would be wrong not to mention that this year Vacheron Constantin broke its own world record with a one-of-a-kind pocket watch packed with 63 complications and an incredible 2,877 components – a timepiece that took 11 years to create. At Watches and Wonders Geneva 2024, it glowed alongside a quintet of new Overseas luxury sports watches, including this titanium version of the Overseas Tourbillon. Though cast in a lightweight, technical material, the piece isn’t an invitation to scale mountains. Consider it, instead, an opportunity to appreciate the combined aesthetic and mechanical achievement of fusing titanium with the decorous assembly of parts known as a ‘tourbillon’ into a single watch. As complex as that might be, Vacheron Constantin makes it look effortless. This is a brand at the peak of its powers. A boutique exclusive, the Overseas Tourbillon will be available in Fine Watches on the Ground Floor at Harrods.

 

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Sketch of Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre Chronograph Moon with salmon dial and black leather strap
Jaeger-LeCoultre
Duometre Chronograph Moon

 

Watches and Wonders Geneva was first held in 2021 (albeit online) and was built on the foundations of a fair that celebrated haute horlogerie or ‘fine watchmaking’ as the less mellifluous English translation has it. As the most prolific movement maker in Swiss watchmaking history, Jaeger-LeCoultre was one of the stars of that show, and so it remains. Its position was bolstered further in 2024 by the release of a series utilising its Duometre technology, a mechanical system that runs two power sources – one for timekeeping and a second for something else, all in pursuit of greater precision. In the case of this platinum, salmon-coloured opaline dial piece, the former includes a moon phase accurate to the lunar cycle of 29.53 days, while the ‘something else’ is just as precise. A chronograph that’s accurate to one-sixth of a second (a quarter is standard in mechanical chronographs). As a bonus, the dial layout appears to smile at its owner. Never a bad thing.

 

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Sketch of Cartier Reflection de Cartier cuff watch in 18-karat yellow gold
Cartier
Reflection de Cartier

 

Singling out one reference from Cartier’s 2024 releases is like picking your lottery numbers: a multitude to choose from and any one of them could be the winner. So, while the maison extended its Baignoire, Panthère de Cartier and Santos de Cartier lines with flair this year – the latter two are already available to shop online – it also invited us to dance with its playful Reflection de Cartier cuff watch. Cartier lovers will recognise the name from the brand’s jewellery collection, but this imposing, sculptured piece is a new take on the form. The delicious conceit is in the positioning of the watch, which is recessed into one end of the cuff opening and read off the highly polished reflective surface of the opposite. Of course, that reverses the read-out – so if telling the time is of utmost importance, the style can also be worn the other way around. Available in 18-karat rose gold, gem-set white gold or, as here, yellow gold, it’s pure Cartier: feminine, playful, shaped to perfection and achingly elegant.

 

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Sketch of Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Brise d’Été watch, with green strap and floral enamel dial
Van Cleef & Arpels
Lady Arpels Brise d’Été

 

Ever since Van Cleef & Arpels announced it would focus its watchmaking efforts on poetic complications some years ago, appointments on its stand have become increasingly hard to come by. For most watchmakers, a complication is an additional function, such as a chronograph or perpetual calendar. For Van Cleef & Arpels, it’s a novel and usually unexpected means of displaying time, such that the efficacy of time-telling is wilfully and joyfully all but abandoned. So it is again with the Lady Arpels Brise d’Été, an automaton that at the push of a button stirs the dial’s hand-decorated garden scene into a mesmerising mechanical ballet. Two plique-à-jour enamel butterflies flit innocently around the dial to indicate the time, while behind them blue vallonné enamel flowers sway insouciantly as if caught by a gentle breeze. The time? Frankly, who’s counting?

Find Van Cleef & Arpels in Fine Jewellery on the Ground Floor.

 

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Sketch of Tudor Black Bay 58 with green dial in 18-karat yellow gold
Tudor
Black Bay 58 18K

 

At heart, Tudor’s era-defining Black Bay – one of only a handful of pieces released this century even approaching ‘icon’ status – is a tool watch. It was born in steel, later appeared in industrial bronze, and has always traded on its everyday hardiness and utility. But then Tudor released it in solid 18-karat gold on a leather strap. Arduous outdoor pursuits weren’t the point. It looked fantastic. Now comes the next chapter in the story, a Black Bay 58 with a 39mm 18-karat yellow gold case and bracelet – which, by happy coincidence, comes in Harrods green and gold. As if to underline the design’s tool watch legacy, Tudor has brushed every square millimetre of it, giving it a louche profile that this reviewer found pleasantly intoxicating. Beneath its luxe exterior is Tudor’s hardy in-house automatic, a 70-hour chronometer.

 

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Sketch of IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Eternal Calendar in platinum with black leather strap
IWC Schaffhausen
Portugieser Eternal Calendar

 

The narrative that this year’s Watches and Wonders Geneva would be a ‘safety first’ affair – in which brands rolled out little more than line extensions and new colourways – was disrupted in grand fashion by IWC Schaffhausen’s announcement of the most ambitious perpetual calendar ever seen in a mechanical wristwatch. The Portugieser Eternal Calendar is programmed to show the correct date in full until the year 3999, even allowing for the not entirely straightforward allocation of leap years. Moreover, it has a moon-phase display accurate to *deep breath* 45 million years. The watch’s mechanical wonders are wrapped in the eternally comely Portugieser case, here in 44.4mm of sumptuous platinum. Unquestionably, one of the stars of the show.

 

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Sketch of Hublot Big Bang Unico Chronograph with bright orange dial and strap
Hublot
Big Bang Unico Orange Ceramic

 

Credit to Hublot. Before any of us could get there, the brand had dubbed its new ceramic timepiece ‘a clockwork orange’. And what a good thing. Amid a sea of monochrome occasionally punctuated by a whisper of blue or green, this vibrant orange blast was one of only a handful of reminders at this year’s fair that, at its root, mechanical watchmaking is joyfully, unapologetically frivolous. In this day and age, why would anyone think to burden gravity and 18th-century mechanics with the job of telling us the time? Hublot’s Big Bang Unico Orange Ceramic is the answer on full beam. The polished orange ceramic is new, following previous expressions in yellow and red, and is matched by dial accents and a structured rubber strap. This series is limited to 250 pieces, and each will be powered by Hublot’s impressive in-house HUB1280 UNICO manufacture self-winding chronograph.

 

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Sketch of Zenith Defy Skyline Chronograph with blue dial and steel bracelet strap
Zenith
Defy Skyline Chronograph

 

The return of Zenith’s Defy collection a few years ago has proved an unqualified success. People love the model’s edgy 1970s silhouette, which is defined by its dodecagonal bezel and unfussy, tapered bracelet. But until now, Zenith had not yet equipped the Defy Skyline with the complication it is best known for: a chronograph. At last, here it is, a Defy fuelled by the El Primero 3600, Zenith’s legendary high-frequency chronograph calibre. The El Primero has been upgraded numerous times since it was introduced in 1969, so that here it captures elapsed time to the nearest 1/10th of a second. That means the chronograph’s central seconds hand makes a full tour of the dial in a sprightly 10 seconds rather than the usual 60. The suave 42mm stainless steel watch is available with either a black, silver or blue dial and comes with an interchangeable rubber strap.

 

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Sketch of TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph in steel with red and black 'Panda' dial accents
TAG Heuer
Carrera Chronograph

 

Much of the volume at TAG Heuer this year was created by the company’s high-end Monaco Rattrapante, a split-seconds chronograph that featured heavily on a giant LED screen that covered the entirety of the brand’s booth façade. But the watch that seemed to capture the hearts and minds of many attendees was the steely Carrera Chronograph – a piece that epitomises the ageless story of TAG Heuer’s much-loved everyman race watch. How? The bi-compax twin-counter dial layout certainly helps (it also accommodates a small seconds and date at six o’clock), as does the ‘Panda’ black-on-silver dial colourway. Sporty red accents are a boon, too, but it’s the honesty of the overall form that tips the balance, pointing as it does to Jack Heuer’s 1960s 7753 SN design (worn by Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby in Ford v Ferrari, incidentally), an absolute classic of the masculine sports watch genre.

 

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Sketch of Bremont Terra Nova 40.5 Turning Bezel Power Reserve with black fabric strap
Bremont
Terra Nova 40.5 Turning Bezel Power Reserve

 

The most seismic event at Watches and Wonders Geneva this year, certainly for the British visitor, was the evolution of Bremont. Founded in 2002 by the plucky English brothers (both in name and nationality), Bremont is renowned for creating highly durable mechanical timepieces and has, over the past 20 years, become the UK’s largest watch company, complete with a 35,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility just outside Henley-on-Thames. Now, with industry veteran Davide Cerrato as its new CEO, Bremont has refreshed with a new ‘The Wayfinder’ moniker, a new ambassador (Academy Award-winning filmmaker and climber Jimmy Chin) and a new line of field watches inspired by early 20th century military pocket watches, given the name Terra Nova in continuation of one of the company’s past limited-edition models. Among those is this adventure-ready piece in highly resistant 904L stainless steel that features a bi-directional rotating bezel with compass markers, block numerals cut from Super-LumiNova and an automatic movement with a power reserve indicator. A new dawn for Bremont.

 

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Sketch of Chopard Alpine Eagle 41 XP TT in titanium
Chopard
Alpine Eagle 41 XP TT

 

Just how elegant can a high-performing sports watch be? Chopard seemingly posed that question to itself this year, pushing its own abilities as watch and movement maker to deliver the silkiest, most technical, ultra-masculine sports watch on the market. This year, it comes closer than ever to fulfilling its brief with the Alpine Eagle 41 XP TT (Tech Titanium), a version of its high-society sports watch with an integrated bracelet in titanium. Much lighter than steel, titanium also offers high levels of resistance, and can be machined to narrow tolerances – no easy task. So here, Chopard has whittled a titanium case of just 8mm in thickness (XP is short for extra-plat or ‘ultra-thin’), inside which it’s slotted one of its own high-end L.U.C in-house calibres, this time with a 65-hour power reserve and solid gold automatic rotor. With the dial stripped away, this is clearly visible, a techy touch that marries imperiously with the use of grade 5 titanium.

 

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Sketch Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon in navy blue
Piaget
Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon

 

What a year Piaget is having. The timing, no mistake, is well ordained. The venerable Swiss watchmaker is marking its 150th anniversary – and, having dazzled earlier this year with the all-18kt-gold Polo 79, it has now leveraged the moment to introduce us to the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon, the thinnest tourbillon wristwatch ever made. At 2mm it’s roughly the thickness of two credit cards, and yet somehow it still manages to pack in the three-dimensional assembly of parts known as a tourbillon. How? That will have to wait for another day, but essentially, by integrating the case and movement into a single unit as it did with the original Altiplano Ultimate Concept of 2018 – albeit without a tourbillon in that case. Equally incredible is that, while being a technical marvel, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon is still very much a watch, as elegant as you’d expect a Piaget to be, and is entirely wearable. Dizzying, spectacular, unforgettable – and a true watchmaking wonder.

 

 

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