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Shock and Awe: Watches and Wonders 2022 Returns to Geneva

“It’s good to be back!”

This sentiment, uttered by Fratello founder Robert Jan-Broer, more than matched the enthusiasm coursing through the halls throughout all seven days of this year’s long-awaited Watches and Wonders show at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, Switzerland. “Watches, for me, are an emotional product. So it’s very good that it’s a physical show again. It’s all about people connecting,” Broer added.

Watches and Wonders 2022
(kaboompics / pixabay)

After more than two years, the hallmark event organized by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie once again threw open its doors to 38 major and independent brands, buyers, and journalists. And for the first time in its 31-year history, showrunners simultaneously delivered free, premium content to an online global audience in a truly ‘phygital’ experience.

Elevating the Environment

Saving the planet took center stage at the show, with most brands showcasing their latest sustainability efforts. Oris introduced its Aquis Date Upcycle, the newest version of its high-performance dive watch with a dial entirely made of recycled PET plastic picked up from oceanside beaches. Panerai launched the Submersible QuarantaQuattro with their proprietary eSteel, a stainless that is 95 percent recycled. Chopard highlighted its continuing commitment to fair mining practices with its Happy Sport Chrono, fully encased in 18k ethical rose gold.

Hublot also solidified its commitment to the environment by announcing a collaboration with Jean-Louis Etienne’s Polar Pod expedition. The Polar Pod, a zero-emission, 100-meter long vertical vessel, is the first ship to conduct large-scale research in Antarctica’s waters. The uncrewed, engine-less vessel will drift around the continent powered by onboard wind turbines and the Antarctic circumpolar current and collect valuable data. The project is part of Hublot’s Xplorations program, which supports various environmental projects worldwide focused on three main areas: Space, earth, and sea.

Meanwhile, Tag Heuer introduced the Carrera Plasma in its Diamant D’avant-garde collection. The tourbillon watch possesses a unique polycrystalline diamond dial covered with a single lab-grown CVD diamond. Although grown in a lab, CVD gems are real diamonds, and using them represents another step toward protecting the earth from overmining.

Luxury watches traditionally have shied away from CVD diamonds because consumers often confuse them with ‘fake’ diamonds like Cubic zirconia. And since they are less rare than naturally-occurring diamonds, many in the industry feel that diminishes their value. Tag Heuer’s Plasma shatters these perceptions and seems to have opened the door to a possible niche for lab-grown diamonds as a distinct design feature.

“Our vision was to create a never-before-seen watch,” said Tag Heuer CEO Frédéric Arnault in his keynote at the show. “Lab-grown diamonds allowed us to create shapes and textures that would be impossible to have with natural diamonds,” he continued.

Adventurous Aspirations

One of the unofficial themes of this year’s watch show seemed to center on our innate desire to explore the world. Maybe it’s because we have been cooped up for so long; who knows? But, while everybody was camped out in their living rooms, several of the brands dreamed up some fantastic timepieces that beckon you to get on the boat, in the air, or on the trail.

Montblanc immediately caught the attention of our Swiss-trained watch repair technicians with the 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date and the Limited Edition 1858 Geosphere Chronograph Zero Oxygen. Using an ancient artistic technique known as gratté-boisé, both the Iced Sea and the Zero Oxygen sport a stunning glacier dial that looks exactly like the real thing. On the case back of the Iced Sea, watch lovers will discover an incredibly detailed underwater and above-water engraving of a massive iceberg. If you look closely, you can even see the tiny deep-sea diver.

Montblanc’s Zero Oxygen watch is the 1858 line’s first chronograph and the first watch in history designed to be completely oxygen-free. By removing the oxygen from the case, you eliminate the issue of fogging at extremely high altitudes, protect the movement from oxidation damage, and maintain accuracy in even the harshest climates. Watchmakers also lubricated the movement with special oils that work well in frigid temperatures up to -50 degrees celsius. Equipment failure isn’t an option for the Zero Oxygen, as you’d be hard-pressed to find a Montblanc watch repair shop on a mountaintop. The 44mm watch sports an ultra-light titanium case with a bi-directional ceramic bezel, and the case back shows a beautiful engraving of Mt. Everest.

Purchasing the Zero Oxygen won’t be easy, as only a few have been made. But, if you tune in to the climbing world next month, you will see it on the wrist of world-renowned mountaineer Nimsdai Purja MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire). In May, Purja will give the timepiece the ultimate road test by attempting to summit Mt. Everest without using supplemental oxygen.

Timeless Travel

A couple of watches that inspired a bit of travel whimsy at the show were the Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon 38 Eclipse I, Patek Phillipe’s World Time Ref. 7130R, and Hermès’ Arceau Le temps voyageur. The Perpetual Moon evokes Van Gogh’s Starry Night with its blue and white mother-of-pearl backdrop, a fine layer of blue aventurine crystal, and a lace-like cutout that highlights different-phase ruthenium crystal moons as they pass by. Diamonds placed throughout the watch case add to the feeling that you’re sitting somewhere under a billion stars.

Created just for ladies, Patek Phillipe’s World Time ultra-thin, self-winding 240 caliber movement allows the wearer to simultaneously see the correct time in 24 different time zones and adjust to a new time zone with the touch of a button. The watch highlights the brand’s craftsmanship with its hand-guilloched basketweave center dial, sapphire crystal case back, and bezel with 62 diamonds.

Finally, one of our personal favorites, the Hermès Arceau Le temps voyageur. As watch lovers and Hermès watch repair gurus, we love a good complication, and this timepiece does not disappoint. The watch’s latest offering in the Arceau line features an exclusive “time-traveling” module – a floating central dial that you can easily set to any time zone. And, unlike many world time-telling complications, the Arceau Le temps voyageur also is surprisingly easy to read at a glance.

The timepiece shows your home hour on a 24-hour scale in a small aperture at the 12 o’clock position, while the rotating center disk displays the time where you’re at with the traditional hour and minute hands. A tiny red triangle at the edge of the dial points to the city name within your current time zone. For instance, let’s say your home is New York and you’re currently in London. The center dial will be up at the 12 o’clock position, with the red triangle pointing to London, and the hour and minute hands will read 4 o’clock. Your home time, shown in the aperture, will read 11 o’clock. Pretty simple.

The design is impressive, too. Hearkening back to Hermès roots in all things horses, the watch face displays the “Planisphère d’un monde équestre” motif designed by Jérôme Colliard, a unique globe with equestrian-named continents. The galvanized center disk also maintains the original 1978 Arceau dial design with its simple face and sunburst-type numerals. At 41mm in black and 38mm in blue, this watch wears nicely on any wrist.

Our piece represents just the tip of the Montblanc iceberg for this year’s watch releases and captivating trends.