The watch industry had prepared to start face-to-face events again this year. But as cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant mounted, LVMH Watch Week in Geneva, which was due to start for Monday, was postponed as an online program – and the rest of the early 2022 calendar became uncertain.
Not that the pandemic is affecting the industry’s performance: exports are now exceeding 2019 levels, according to the Swiss Watch Industry Association, and in November Switzerland recorded its highest monthly export figures since October 2014. As a result, brands continue to launch new models. Here are 14 pieces, fresh from the market.
It’s too early in the year to tell if any of the January releases will define watchmaking in 2022, but here are four contenders from some of the world’s most sought-after brands.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo extra thin 39 mm Item no. 16202
Price on request
The history of the Royal Oak Jumbo is watchmaking history. When Gerald Genta’s octagonal bezel design was introduced in 1972, it was the world’s first stainless steel luxury sports watch. Fifty years later, its anniversary begins with the Ref. 16202, which by most accounts is a replacement for the discontinued – but still highly desirable – Ref. 15202. Its first variant is this 18k rose gold piece, which differs from the older model only distinguished by its movement, the new caliber 7121. In an unexpected move, Audemars Piguet’s next-generation ultra-thin automatic isn’t thinner than its predecessor, but the new watch’s power reserve has increased from 40 to 55 hours, and the brand has said it’s more accurate. As with every Royal Oak model launched this year, there is a special 50th anniversary rotor, visible here through the sapphire crystal case back.
TAG Heuer Autavia Flyback Chronograph 60th Anniversary
Combined product names have become so common – Netflix, Verizon, even Brexit – that the joke of Heuer’s 1930s invention “Autavia” is hardly noticeable anymore. Originally coined for a stopwatch on the dashboard of a rally car, the name brought the worlds of “automotive” and “aviation” together. In 1962 it was adopted by Jack Heuer, a keen rally driver, for his first wristwatch as head of the company. It was the brand’s key model until 1985, when the company was reinvented as TAG Heuer. Sixty years after that first wristwatch, the reborn Autavia isn’t quite as familiar as TAG Heuer’s Carrera, but it retains a loyal following. The trio of Autavia anniversary designs includes this 42-millimeter piece with a silver dial, the first to feature the new Heuer 02 COSC Flyback movement, which features a chronograph that can be reset and restarted with a single push of a button. The anniversary set also includes a black DLC or diamond-like coating, a variation, and a GMT model.
Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon Lights
Starting at $3,000
The Parisian luxury house returned to its connected watch concept for the third time earlier this month with the Tambour Horizon Light Up. The bespoke operating system offers a range of always-on personalization options, some of which trigger the 24 LED lights housed behind the watch’s monogram ring in a sort of mini-disco color ball (hence the name). Equally unique is Louis Vuitton’s decision not to market the device as a health and fitness gizmo. Instead, it invites wearers to personalize their watch faces with their initials and swipe left for airline boarding passes and access to 30 world city guides. At 44 millimeters, the model isn’t small, but the engineered curved sapphire crystal screen makes it feel somehow more portable than its size might suggest.
Zenith Defy Skyline
Zenith first used the Defi name for a pocket watch in 1902 and Defy for a wristwatch in 1969. And yet pieces like this new Defy Skyline, with its distinctly industrial silhouette and 12-sided bezel, still feel slightly experimental — avant-garde, too. The Skyline models are characterized by the repeating four-pointed star motif that accentuates their dials and the small seconds at 9 o’clock. It rotates a full 360 degrees every 10 seconds, powered by a new version of Zenith’s high-frequency El Primero movement, originally designed as a chronograph. Although it beats quickly, the automatic has a power reserve of 60 hours. The watch comes with a faceted strap and a spare rubber strap decorated with a starry sky motif.
Grouping luxury watches by trends can be a breeze as most are built to last. Despite this, it is clear that sports watches on metal bracelets remain popular, as does liberal use of colour. Nonetheless, there is still room for pieces that highlight the zodiac or the lunar calendar, as well as high-end complications and spectacular watches that are both works of art and timepieces.
Hublot Big Bang integral time only
Up until two years ago, it had gone almost unnoticed that Hublot, a brand that has supercharged the sports watch category since introducing the Big Bang in 2005, had never made a wristwatch. But the introduction of the Big Bang Integral chronograph in 2020 changed all that, and quickly proved Hublot was missing a trick. Now it offers this Time Only iteration, seen here in yellow gold, a 40-millimeter three-hand sports watch with date. Although new, it looks like it could have been in Hublot’s collection for years.
Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery
Price on request
The Italian and Swiss minds at work in Bulgari’s watch division have created a record-breaking series of ultra-thin watches in the Octo Finissimo line. And now the brand has condensed 105 components into a mechanical movement that’s just 12.3 millimeters wide and 2.5 millimeters thick and weighs just 1.3 grams, about the same as half a cent. With the name Piccolissimo, the caliber BVL100 was hidden in the head of the secret watch Serpenti Misteriosi, decorated here with turquoises, rubellites and 724 diamonds.
Dior Grand Bal Toile de Jouy
Dior’s watchmaking endeavors have long focused on small-run collections with ties to couture and haute joaillerie. Crafted in steel, rose gold and diamonds, this 36mm watch is inspired by the brand’s signature Toile de Jouy pattern, which visitors to Monsieur Dior’s apartments and the brand’s boutique at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris will recognize on the tapestries. The watch still has an upside-down automatic movement, so that the oscillating rotor, here a complex network of flowers, leaves and twigs, swings casually across the dial. Only 88 will be made.
Omega Speedmaster Caliber 321 Canopus Gold
A fun fact about the Speedmaster is that it was never intended for space. Twelve years before Buzz Aldrin walked the moon with a watch, it had been designed as a driver’s watch, complete with a robust hand-wound chronograph movement called the Caliber 321. Omega replicated this movement three years ago and now for the watch’s 65th anniversary year, has it in a 38.6 millimeter Speedmaster case made of the in-house ultra-brilliant Canopus white gold.
Chopard LUC XP Urushi Year of the Tiger
Lunar New Year, which falls on Tuesday, marks the Year of the Tiger. To kick off the event, Chopard produced an ultra-thin, limited-edition dress watch adorned with the meticulous Japanese process of urushi lacquering. All 88 dials of the edition were crafted by Minori Koizumi, a master varnisher, and feature a tiger motif, said to symbolize luck, wisdom, intelligence and creativity. They’re framed in 39.5 millimeters of what the brand calls “ethical 18k gold.”
Oris Sun Wukong Artist Edition
For the first time, Oris, an independent company known for $2,000-$3,000 watches, has produced a watch with a cloisonné enamel dial, a technique more common in fine (read: very expensive) watch brands. brands is common. The design features the Dragon King’s underwater palace from a 1961 Chinese animation featuring Sun Wukong, the literary character also known as the Monkey King, featured on the case back. The 72-piece edition is powered by Oris’ in-house five-day automatic caliber 400.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Complete Calendar Openface
Switzerland makes fewer watches these days, but without sacrificing sales thanks to the popularity of high-end pieces like Vacheron’s latest full calendar, a modern-looking take on a classic complication. Its openwork sapphire dial reveals some of its mechanical secrets, powering a full calendar and moon phase display. It’s available in white (shown) or rose gold and it’s not a limited edition.
Ulysse Nardin Explosion Moonstruck
Ulysse Nardin’s eccentric new watch is set to be released on Tuesday, the start of the lunar new year. While the watch’s aesthetic is straight out of the brand’s ultra-contemporary design book, its astronomical complication has been plucked from a movement designed 40 years ago. Displaying what the brand calls “the visible path of the sun” and the lunar cycle, the model features a tide chart and world time function that almost become an afterthought on this exceptional piece.
Carl F. Bucherer Manero Peripheral BigDate
Whisper it, but the Carl F. Bucherer family business is on a quiet and intensely low-key march. The brand says it now sells more than 30,000 watches a year, more than five times its 2010 sales. Much of that is thanks to the casual Manero, which accounts for more than a quarter of the brand’s output. This steel version with a blue dial features a small seconds, power reserve, day of the week and “big” date indicators and comes on a beige fabric strap.
Hermes Heuer H
It says a lot about the success of the Hermès watch collection that it has no signature design – any of its shapes could wear that coat. One would certainly be Philippe Mouquet’s 1996 Heuer H, the H-shaped piece. For the first time, Hermès has decorated it with colored stone dials: one in obsidian, another in aventurine, and this rose gold version in green malachite. The case and delicate 21mm dial are set with 180 diamonds.