Lovers of haute horology have had quite a bit to get excited about lately, as LVMH Watch Week 2022 unveiled a bevy of timekeeping beauties. From smokey blue dials to the unabashedly bejewelled, here’s a roundup of our favourites from the affair.
Though it may seem like only yesterday, when LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) kicked off its inaugural LVMH watch week in Dubai a little over two years ago, the pandemic was still in its infancy. As we continued to wade our way through the global health crisis, the luxury goods conglomerate undeterred by the challenges caused by it – trudged on with the second edition in January 2021, held online for health and safety reasons. This year was no different, and we attended the third edition of the highly-anticipated event virtually, from January 24 to 28.
Four maisons shared their new releases at the highly anticipated event. Bvlgari continues to seduce with bejewelled timepieces, including the stunning Serpenti Misteriosi high jewellery secret watches and the Octo Roma Emerald Grande Sonnierie, the latter a prime example of the house’s expertise in chiming timepieces. There’s also the 30-piece limited edition Octo Roma Blue Carillon Tourbillon, which redefines watchmaking traditions by combining two classic complications.
Zenith goes all out with its Defy collection. This includes the Defy Revival A3642 that revives the first Defy model from 1969, as well as the Defy Skyline, which recalls the unique octagonal geometry often seen on early models in the collection. Hublot presents big and bold watches, with yellow gold making a return in most of them. The Big Bang Unico Sang Bleu II with a Magic Gold case sees Swiss tattoo artist Maxime Plescia-Buchi celebrating his seventh year of collaboration with the manufacture by employing three- dimensional geometry on the latest creation.
As for Tag Heuer, it commemorates the 60th year of its Autavia watches by releasing three new references from the legendary collection. One of them, the Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph, features the Calibre Heuer 02 COSC Flyback movement. Lastly, there’s the Aquaracer Professional 200 that continues the legacy of Tag Heuer’s high-functioning sports watch, which began 40 years ago.
The watches presented at the LVMH Watch Week are indicative of the horological trends we’ll see throughout the year. Minimalism remains a staple, with clean lines and uncluttered dials appealing to most as they fit the aesthetics of formal functions, while blending well in casual gatherings.
Bright coloured dials see a steady growth, continuing to serve as perfect companions for those seeking watches that demand attention without bearing many intricate details. As fusion of function and fashion continue to win the hearts of style-conscious adventurers, luxury sports watches are another trend to keep an eye on, with the increasing demand for watches from the category over the last couple of years.
Of the myriad horological masterpieces unveiled at the LVMH Watch Week, we’ve selected ones that we think best encapsulate this year’s offerings.
Aquaracer Professional 200
What we love about the Aquaracer Professional 200 is that while it shares the same DNA with its predecessor, the Aquaracer Professional 300, the new series bears marked distinctions that, in our opinion, further elevates the allure of Tag Heuer’s Aquaracer collection.
Most notable are the size differences, with the new entrants seeing a reduction that brings the case diameter down to 40mm – some even more diminutive at just 30mm, with diamond-set bezel and hour markers for added fluorish. Compared to the 43mm of last year’s Professional 300 watches, the smaller case translates to a more comfortable fit on the wrist, while the dual size options appeal to a wider audience.
Since we’re examining the case closely here, let’s talk material. Stainless steel remains the choice for obvious reasons. As a watch that’s meant for outdoor adventures, be it on land or at sea, the durable metal is best as it is able to withstand various harsh conditions and environments.
The case design is largely unchanged, but its unidirectional turning bezel (still featuring a diving scale) is notably missing two elements: the hash marks and luminescent material. With the Professional 200 being marketed as an all-terrain sports watch, the stray from the traditional dive watch layout is unsurprising. In fact, flipping to the caseback will reveal a compass engraved on it, in place of the scaphander diving helmet that has featured on Aquaracer watches since 2002. Another difference from its sister watch is the bezel now comes in steel rather than ceramic.
Instead of octagonal hour markers, oversized hour hand and yellow detailing found on the Professional 300, these elements are now replaced by straight-edged, trapezoidal hour markers, sleeker sword-shaped hands and crisp white detailing. The Professional 200 also features more varied dials in terms of finishing, adding mother-of-pearl, slightly smoky dial as well as a slightly smoky sunray-brushed dial to its repertoire.
Differences aside, the watches from the two series do share distinctive traits: a bezel with 12 facets, which is an upgrade of the famous original version introduced in 1995; a refined, repeating horizontal line dial decoration; sculpted, chamfered, shorter lugs with brushed and polished finishes; a three-link bracelet; and a screw-down crown with 12 facets and protection.
A total of 11 new references comprise the latest Aquaracer Professional 200 line-up. What we haven’t mentioned is these watches aren’t just differentiated by case sizes, but also in the movement. There are seven quartz references – two in 40mm and five in 30mm – while the remaining four are automatic, with Calibre 5 Automatic powering the 40mm models and Calibre 9 Automatic driving the 30mm.
There are two main aesthetic characteristics distinguishing the automatic variants from the quartz versions: fumé or smoky gradient dials and date windows. We’re spoilt for choice but ultimately, picking either movement or size boils down to the wearer’s personal preferences and lifestyle needs.
Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery Secret Watch
Opulent and sensual, the Serpenti Misteriosi high jewellery secret watches have successfully snaked their way into our hearts. Marrying haute horlogerie with high jewellery has always been Bvlgari’s forte and once again, the house does not disappoint. Swiss watchmaking expertise and impeccable craftsmanship combine to create new Serpenti Misteriosi models that capture the quintessence of the Roman Jeweller of Time.
Unveiled in the 1950s, the first Serpenti secret watches immediately impressed with daring colour palettes, meticulous craftsmanship and unconventional materials. The new iterations do not fall short when it comes to bewitching their audiences. When the snake head is snapped shut, each phenomenal piece might be mistaken for merely being a wrist ornament, only to be admired for its ornate appearance. Once opened, it reveals its secret: a diamond-paved dial nestled within the snake’s mouth.
All four 40mm creations are equipped with the BVL 100 Piccolissimo calibre, which lives up to its name (piccolissimo means “very small” in Italian) as it measures 12.3mm in diameter and is just 2.5mm thick. This makes the new mechanical micromovement, entirely conceived and produced at the Bvlgari Manufacture in Le Sentier, one of the smallest in the world.
The revival of the very small mechanical motors – found in all women’s watches until the early ’70s – isn’t the watch’s only throwback to the iconic ’50s design, the nostalgia factor can also be noted in the coiled appearance and concealment of the watch movement under the naturalistic serpent head. The latter additionally pays tribute to the first Bvlgari secret watch introduced 80 years ago, which featured a rectangular dial concealed by a hinged cover embellished with brilliant-cut and baguette diamonds.
Pressing the snake’s tongue on the Serpenti Misteriosi opens the head to reveal the watch. A bidirectional crown located on the caseback enables manual winding and time-setting. This dual function operates by means of a system of reversers. The watch movement on the Serpenti Misteriosi is found in a removable container hidden within the snake’s head. This design provides great flexibility as it enables the watch to be worn on either wrist since the dial can be detached and oriented accordingly.
To elevate the elegance of the lacquered versions – black set against rose gold with two pear-cut diamonds for the eyes or green against white gold with a pair of pear-cut emeralds for the eyes – semi-transparent lacquer is hand-applied and dried, multiple times. This crystallises as it dries, lending the watches a radiant sheen. On another model, turquoise inserts can be found on the rose gold bracelet, lending it a mesmerising blue-green hue that contrasts brilliantly against two pear-cut rubellites that form its eyes. The final model features a yellow gold body with a white gold tail and head, punctuated with dazzling pear-cut emerald eyes.
The timepieces’ many constituent parts are individually shaped before being decorated, gem-set and assembled. The overall design of the precious metal structure forming the double-tour bracelet and head are given particular attention to ensure comfort when worn.
Defy Midnight Sunset & Defy Midnight Borealis
Selecting a watch solely for the colour of its dial might seem superficial, but as circumstances have been bleak for the past couple of years, adding a splash of colour (or a fusion of several in this case) to our wrist is one subtle but impactful way to spark joy again. The Defy Midnight Sunset and Defy Midnight Borealis, the latest additions to Zenith’s Defy collection, fulfil exactly this.
Both serve as perfect pick-me-ups, thanks to their brightly coloured guilloche engraved dials with a radiant wave pattern. A vertical colour gradient of warm red to a deep yellow tone lends an dynamic fiery burst to the dial of the Defy Midnight Sunset, recalling the brief, picturesque moment when the sky blushes with the last rays of sunlight before the day fades to darkness. Similarly taking inspiration from nature, the Defy Midnight Borealis reflects the calm beauty of the night sky, the midnight blue at the top half of the dial gradually blending into the bright emerald green beneath is reminiscent of the aurora borealis or Northern Lights phenomenon.
Par for the course with the Defy Midnight collection, brilliant-cut diamonds serve as hour markers, except at 3 o’clock where a date window is strategically placed.
There is a slight difference from the models unveiled during the collection’s debut at last year’s LVMH Watch Week: the new additions only come with diamond-studded bezels. Previous models – available with either a black, blue or mother-of-pearl dial – were offered with two bezel options, one with diamonds and the other without. The latter lends an athletic aesthetic as it lets the watch’s steel case shine unhindered.
Seeing that it is positioned as Zenith’s first collection geared towards women, these latest entrants naturally retain the 36mm case size, as the measurement is one that fits comfortably on slimmer wrists. Both also don’t differ much from their predecessors in terms of movement and straps.
Driving all the watches are the Elite automatic manufacture calibre, which provides a minimum of 50 hours of power reserve. All models are presented on a stainless steel bracelet which, owing to the ingenious quick strap-change system, can be swapped with various additional straps without requiring tools.
This versatility is further supplemented by the exclusive collection of sustainably made straps with a high-fashion edge. These are made in partnership with Nona Source, the LVMH-backed start-up that revalues deadstock fabrics from the group’s most prestigious fashion and leather goods maisons. Once upcycled, the fabrics find new lives as handmade haute couture straps. The wide variety of textiles and colours allow greater customisations, translating to watches that can truly match any outfit.
Hand in hand with the Defy Midnight collection is Zenith’s Dreamhers platform, which showcases accomplished women who share their experiences and encourage others to chase their dreams, highlighting the watches as versatile and reliable companions for today’s independent woman.
Yellow Gold collection
All that glitters is definitely gold when it comes to Hublot’s latest timepieces. The aptly named Yellow Gold Collection features six new iterations, comprising the Big Bang, Classic Fusion and Spirit of Big Bang models – marking the first time the manufacture unveils a set of varied pieces based on a single theme. We aren’t simply blinded by the glorious glare of the gold (admittedly, such brilliant gleam on the wrist doesn’t hurt), rather, the shining set steals our attention for the novelty it holds. It is both a tribute to the past and a glimpse into the maison’s future.
All six models feature sleek, contemporary designs that are immediately recognisable as Hublot, paving the way for future iterations that will carry a similar design code. The updated look of the watches remains true to the sporty chic aesthetic carried by the Classic Original of 1980, whose amalgamation of gold and rubber was revolutionary as it was introduced four decades ago when the concept of a sports- chic watch didn’t even exist.
Each new piece harkens to a defining chapter in the manufacture’s history. Among these are the birth of the Big Bang, Classic Fusion, Spirit of Big Bang, as well as the art of stone setting, skeleton work and the creation of the first manufacture movements. While the new pieces feature the aesthetic and technical elements of Hublot’s signature in their own individual way, one common denominator connects them all: yellow gold and black.
First, let’s examine the sole Classic Fusion model in the collection. The Classic Fusion Chronograph in satin-finished and polished yellow gold appears for the first time with a 42mm case (also a consistent size for all six watches). The most minimalist in terms of looks compared to the other models in the collection, it nonetheless presents visual interest through the juxtaposition of its matte black dial and black lined rubber strap against the gold of its case, bezel and caseback. At its heart is the self-winding HUB1153 chronograph movement, providing 42 hours of power reserve.
Next, the Spirit of Big Bang is a mechanical wonder that flaunts its self-winding HUB4700 skeleton chronograph movement, with a 50-hour power reserve, through its sapphire crystal dial. The distinctive watch, whose sculptural case forms an exquisite tonneau with alternating straight lines and curves, shares the same One Click interchangeable strap system found on the Big Bang models. Moving on to the Big Bang Unico, it is the also first to combine a 42mm yellow gold case with a rubber strap and the self-winding HUB1280 Unico 2 manufacture flyback chronograph movement – which boasts an impressive 72-hour power reserve – that can be observed through its matte black skeleton dial.
Completing the collection are a trio of Big Bang Integral watches made up almost entirely of yellow gold, two of which are made even more prominent by their diamond-set cases and bracelets. The Yellow Gold Pavé model is adorned with 1,026 diamonds, while the Yellow Gold Joaillerie version, is embellished with a total of 594 diamonds. Powered by the self-winding HUB1280 Unico 2 manufacture chronograph with column wheel, each watch has a power reserve of up to three days.
This story first appeared on Prestige Online Hong Kong.