Novelties from Watches & Wonders this year have impressed. So impressive that you wouldn’t think that the economy is shot. While not everything’s been interesting (looking at a certain brand that’s famous for passing off old watches with tiny cosmetic changes as whole new novelties), there were a fair number of specimens that have resonated with me. Honorable mentions go to Patek Philippe’s impressive new 1/10th of a second monopusher chronograph, the Ref. 5470, and Vacheron Constantin’s Historiques 222, a shining remake of a historical sports watch. Without further ado, here are my top three picks from Watches and Wonders 2022.
A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Minute Repeater
Only the third ever minute repeater watch to come out of Lange’s esteemed manufactory, all eyes were on the new Richard Lange Minute Repeater. But what sets the watch apart from its predecessors is not what it has, but rather what it lacks. The Richard Lange Minute Repeater lacks the multitude of other complications that defined the 2013 Grand Complication watch, Lange’s first wristwatch with a minute repeater function. The Richard Lange Minute Repeater doesn’t even chime in a decimal format, let alone display time digitally like the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, the brand’s second ever minute repeater wristwatch. It is the absolute classical purity of the Richard Lange Minute Repeater that drew me towards it. A traditional dress watch with a minute repeater as its solitary complication was one of few missing puzzle pieces required to “complete” the contemporary Lange collection and – as someone who appreciates Lange watches – it is satisfying to see that void finally filled. I love that the brand has opted for the simple but decadent aesthetic of the coveted Richard Lange ‘Pour le Mérite’, with the flame blued hands and tiered grand feu enamel dial. The sounds produced by the minute repeater is deliciously warm, crystal clear, and perfectly paced. The most underrated perk about the Richard Lange Minute Repeater is its 39 mm × 9.7 mm size, which is fairly compact and immensely wearable for a high complication watch. This is in stark contrast to the 50 mm x 20.3 mm and 44.2 mm x 14.1 mm sizes of the aforementioned Grand Complication and Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, respectively. Dare I say, for the first time, we have a Lange minute repeater that isn’t comically large. And that, in my mind, is cause of celebration.
Ulysse Nardin Freak S
Feast your eyes upon the literal coolest novelty from Watches & Wonders 2022 that you haven’t heard of. It is criminal how little the new Ulysse Nardin Freak S is talked of compared to other debutants. The Freak in all its incarnations has always intrigued me with its unique movement – there is nothing quite like it. The best part is that it gets better with every update (except for the Freak X, which is an impostor and doesn’t count). The Freak S is the first watch by Ulysse Nardin to feature twin balances. These balances are inclined and linked by a differential system, offering improved accuracy, at least according to Ulysse Nardin. With its gorgeous aventurine dial and movement perched atop a carousel reminiscent of a spaceship, the front of the Freak S looks like a scene straight out of Star Wars. I don’t know how they do it at Ulysse Nardin, but with the Freak S, the legacy of the Freak as one of high watchmaking’s most original and striking timepieces is more alive than ever. Perfect timing for the brand, then, to signal that they mean business as they leave the Kering group this year and become independent.
Chopard L.U.C Strike One
I have a soft spot for watches that chime en passant, so it’s no surprise that the Chopard L.U.C Strike One appeals to me. The L.U.C Strike One chimes at the start of every hour, which I feel is very poetic and helps you keep track of time. But not only do you get to hear it, you also get to see it in action on your wrist. A cut-out between 12 and 1 o’clock reveals a beautifully polished hammer that strikes the patented crystal gong that encircles the dial. As a reminder, Chopard’s crystal gong, first featured in the L.U.C Full Strike, is literally made out of sapphire crystal – it’s not just some fancy marketing term. Crafted from a single block of crystal together with the watch’s top crystal, the gong produces some of the loudest, clearest, and most musical sounds ever heard in a chiming wristwatch. To top it all off, the L.U.C Strike One boasts a Poinçon de Genève movement, certifying that it is constructed and finished to haute horology standards. This here is a watch that appears simple and straightforward but is in actuality backed by years of R&D and executed to a high level of quality.
It’s been many years since I’ve started writing about watches. I’ve been exposed to many different brands and their offerings, but it seems my personal taste remains fairly constant. A. Lange & Söhne watches tend to make it into my shortlist because I am enthusiastic about Saxon watchmaking and high-end finishing, two boxes that Lange ticks. The Richard Lange Minute Repeater of course does more than just tick boxes – the watch simply is excellent from a watchmaking and marketing perspective.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak S, meanwhile, was a no-brainer for me as I’ve always been a huge proponent of the concept and execution of the Freak. Avant-garde and above all, fascinating, the Freak seems to age like wine as it gets better with every iteration. There is no way that it doesn’t get my vote.
Last but not least, we have Chopard who I think remains an underdog in Swiss high watchmaking in spite of their competency and achievements. The new L.U.C Strike One sums it all up: Hallmark of Geneva and COSC-certified, powered by innovations that actually work, and competitively priced like most other L.U.C timepieces. It’s hard not to fall in love with it, especially when the watch stars one of my favourite complications.