Watchmaking at a time of great returns

In 2020, the Geneva Watch Days had been the only physical fair to be held in the world of watchmaking. Since the first eight months of 2021 have (a lot) resembled the previous year, the Geneva Watch Days have taken place and will remain the only international watch fair of the year. A rather rare event – around fifteen brands of great diversity have sealed a multilateral agreement – which stands out in the world of luxury watchmaking. The watches presented there are also heralds of the new “normal”. In the very conservative world of Swiss watchmaking, it looks a lot… like the old one. Thus, certain categories of watches which had disappeared from radars, must-haves which were expected to return, are coming back to the fore.

The travel watch is thus making its appearance again. Logically, the brands had stopped the launches of these pieces in two, three or more time zones. Since international flights have been reduced to the bare minimum, they had so far considered counterproductive to launch new products on this subject. The first to draw is Bulgari. Its Octo Worldtimer inaugurates the great return of the watch to world time. On a single dial, we can read the current time in the twenty-four main time zones of the planet, represented by a reference city.

Bulgari Octo Worldtimer.

The other way of approaching the subject is the so-called GMT watch, with a dual time zone, which H. Moser & Cie presented in a pilot-type box from the 1940s and on a burgundy red dial, a rare and luminous shade of which the brand has the secret. For its part, Parmigiani Fleurier is renewing the aesthetics of its Tonda Hémisphères. In a subtly asymmetrical case, this very refined model houses two time zones which have the rare feature of indicating the hour, but also the minutes in two places. Practical for countries that are fifteen, thirty or forty-five minutes behind the reference time zone, such as India, for example.

Mickey Mouse and urban style

Other practice that watchmaking had put aside, humor. Because watches also have their second degree. And some of these fun, uninhibited watches have a long, rich history. This is the case with Gerald Genta’s Mickey watches. In the 1980s, this watch designer launched very high-end pieces bearing the likeness of Disney characters, succeeding in having the license renewed by the Californian giant on several occasions. The brand now belongs to Bulgari, which launches limited series sparingly.

Gerald Genta Retro Disney Mickey Mouse.

These nostalgic jewels, which evoke cartoons, comics, superheroes, have become collectors among the four-and-fifty. They have a very loyal and eager audience, since the demand for the Gerald Genta Retro Disney Mickey Mouse has several times exceeded the supply of 150 copies. Another way not to take himself seriously, Maurice Lacroix has registered his Aikon Automatic Urban Tribe in the urban style, tattooed and extreme sport at the same time. The watch has been entirely laser engraved with patterns reminiscent of tattoos. This is not the first time that the experiment has been tried, but burning a box remains a heavy and costly exercise. Maurice Lacroix was able to make it affordable for a watch of this technicality, around € 2,000.

Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic Urban Tribe.

The latest style to take center stage, the heavy watch. During two years of crisis, of declining income, of slowing spending, watches had become more modest, more discreet. They had therefore abandoned very noble materials such as platinum or even more tantalum or palladium. The Geneva show this year sees the return of pieces that exceed 200 grams, a significant weight when it is concentrated around the wrist.

Urwerk UR-105 TTH.

Tantalum Urwerk UR-105 TTH makes it feel like the heaviest material in the industry by far. The palm goes to Parmigiani Fleurier and his split-seconds chronograph from the Tonda PF line. Its movement is in gold, while the case, bracelet and dial are in platinum. What to lose the balance… and the head because these pieces whose weight recalls the value have amateurs in all the countries of the world. And too bad for the possible tendonitis in the wrist.

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