This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 7, 2015.
While Baselworld and SIHH are the two biggest trade shows in the world of luxury wristwatches, they’re not the only ones. Last week Watches & Wonders arrived in Hong Kong, bringing the first big burst of new watches since March. Most of the headline-making watches displayed are either gem-encrusted or high-complication items made mostly for marketing. But I sifted through the more outlandish offerings and found six that are understated and highly wearable.
These are the new releases that matter. — Bloomberg
The basic time-only 1815 is one of the simplest watches in Lange’s line-up, as well as one of the best. It has a handsome, easy-to-read dial, sharp hands and a versatile 40mm case. The movement inside exemplifies what German watchmaking is all about, with the large plate on top, the engraved balance cock holding the spring and wheel, and the high degree of decoration on every surface. This special edition commemorates the would-be 200th birthday of the brand’s founder and is made in Lange’s proprietary “honey gold”, which has a warm hue similar to that of the German silver used in the movement. There are only 200 of these, each individually numbered, and I can’t imagine they’ll last very long in the boutiques. US$33,500 (RM146,730)
Rolex might have the best-known day-date watch out there, but it certainly doesn’t have the monopoly. The new Portofino Day & Date has an oversized date window at 12 o’clock, as well as a circular day-of-the-week indicator at three o’clock. A running seconds dial at six o’clock and a power reserve meter at nine o’clock balance the dial out, so things don’t look lopsided. The eight-day power reserve (that’s 192 hours) means you can put this into regular rotation with your other watches and not have to reset the day and date every time you strap it on. The massive 45mm diameter size and dressier dial don’t quite sync up for me, but if larger watches are your thing, this Portofino is a nice mid-level complication. From US$13,300 (RM58,254)
Not every Panerai is big enough to use as a dinner plate. These models use the familiar Radiomir 1940 shape with angular edges and sturdy lugs, but it comes in a 42mm diameter instead of the more common 45mm and 47mm sizes. You can opt for either steel or red gold, and both are powered by Panerai’s in-house P.1000 movement, which is hand wound and has a three-day power reserve. While these might be Panerai’s “entry-level” watches, they punch far above their weight class and offer good value in both aesthetics and mechanics. From US$7,600 (RM33,288)
Understatement isn’t very common in the world of women’s watches. The more diamonds and the brighter the colours, the more watchmakers seem to think women will want the watch. With the Limelight Stella, Piaget takes a different approach. This watch is all about admiring the large moonphase complication that takes up most of the top half of the dial. Little details such as the star on the back of the seconds hand and the subtle textures in the dial make this a watch you want to keep looking at in search of more, and it all sits in a curved, 36mm case. The only glitz present is a fairly discreet wave of diamonds under the moonphase disk that doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the watch. This is Piaget we’re talking about though, so if you need more diamonds, you can opt for a diamond bezel as well. From US$20,500 (RM89,790)
Cartier invented the “mystery clock” in the late 19th century and recently resurrected it in wristwatch form. The signature style has hands anchored in the centre of a transparent dial, so it looks as if they’re floating in mid-air. (In reality, the mechanics are hidden around the edges.) Here, Cartier adapts an asymmetrical version to fit in a palladium Clé-style case. The contrast between the exposed mechanisms on the right and the totally see-through dial on the left — it’s tough to see in this photo because of the white background, but your skin would show through the dial — is really stark and gives the watch an element of dynamism. If you’ve got hairy wrists, it’s probably best to steer clear, but otherwise this is a watch that will baffle everyone you meet. US$68,500 (RM300,030)
Time Vasco da Gama
This is another take on Montblanc’s popular Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time, adapted to the Vasco da Gama theme that has developed across the brand’s limited releases this year. With only 238 pieces made, Montblanc adds a red gold crown and bezel to the standard steel case, giving you the look of gold without the weight and price of a solid gold watch. The dial has also been spruced up with a stars motif tucked into the 24-hour dial at 12 o’clock and a 3D globe illustration in the seconds register at 6 o’clock. These elements are taken from the much more expensive models in the collection and make this watch look more complicated than it is. It’s a little more in-your-face than the all-steel version with the plain dial, but it’s still easy enough to wear day in and day out. €6,050 (RM29,602)