Our contributor, Kunal makes his top 3 picks from the watches revealed during last week’s Watches & Wonders.
Armchair Picks: Kunal Khemka’s 3 of the best from Watches & Wonders 2023
Watches & Wonders (W&W) 2023, just held in Geneva, Switzerland, during 27 March to 2 April, once again saw many of the global luxury watch brands reveal amazing timepieces. The brands continue to surprise, whether they are completely new timepieces, new collections, new horological movements or innovations, or updates to existing models or collections. Not being physically present in Geneva makes it difficult to choose my top three, as there is no substitute to seeing and holding these timepieces. Often one must speak to the various brands executives and designers to better understand and appreciate collections and timepieces. However, the coverage of the respective brands, horology platforms, and prominent influencers on social media is top-notch, and they have done a fantastic job of revealing their launches using a combination of posts and reels, including interviews. Given the excellence and diversity of the launches, I could have easily chosen more than three top choices. Based on my own preferences, I have chosen three phenomenal timepieces.
Rolex had an impressive debut of timepieces at W&W 2023. The new Cosmograph Daytona rocked horological headlines. And in typical Rolex fashion, there are gradual updates to their Yacht-Master, Sky-Dweller, GMT-Master II, Explorer, and Day-Date collections. Including quirky additions to their Oyster Perpetual and Day-Date collection. And high-end gem-set off-catalogue pieces. The Milgauss and Cellini collections are discontinued. For me, their new Perpetual 1908 collection is their greatest release this year. Metaphorically speaking, Rolex revealing a new collection is like Boeing launching a new aircraft category.
The Perpetual 1908 collection is a new dress-watch collection, inspired by an Oyster Perpetual from 1931. This collection debuts one model, an elegant precious metal dress watch, available in four versions.
- 18K Yellow Gold with Intense White Dial.
- 18K Yellow Gold with Intense Black Dial.
- 18K White Gold with Intense White Dial.
- 18K White Gold with Intense Black Dial.
The charming vintage-inspired dial has applied gold hour markers, Arabic numerals ‘3’, ‘9’, and ‘12’, and the Rolex Crown positioned below the ‘12’. ‘Superlative Chronometer’ text is on the upper part of the small seconds subdial. The bezel is domed and fluted. The winding crown is domed and crafted in 18K gold. The watch is fitted with an Alligator leather strap with double folding Dualclasp. It has a case diameter of 39 mm. A big surprise is a transparent caseback, a Rolex rarity. It reveals in-house self-winding calibre 7140. This is a dedicated slim calibre developed for this collection. It benefits from Rolex R&D and innovations such as its patented Chronergy escapement, Syloxi hairspring in Silicon with patented geometry, and high-performance Paraflex shock-absorbers. In addition to powering the hour and minutes hands and small seconds at 6 o’clock, it incorporates a stop-seconds feature for precise time setting. Power reserve is approximately 66 hours. The timepiece has both COSC and Rolex certification after casing and has a precision of -2/+2 seconds a day. The term ‘Chronometer’ is often used to describe several timepieces; on a Rolex it means something.
While other luxury watch brands are developing more casual timepieces and enhancing their sports collections, Rolex introduces a brand-new precious metal dress watch collection. (There might be stainless-steel versions in the future.) It’s as if they know something which others do not. Perpetual 1908 is a fantastic first attempt at an elegant, classy, and versatile dress watch by Rolex. Traditionalists might prefer dress-watches from luxury brands such as A. Lange & Sohne, Breguet, Jaeger LeCoultre, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin, citing their traditional aesthetics, craftsmanship and notable hand-finishing. Yet, the Perpetual 1908 brings a lot of ‘Rolex’ to the dress-watch category, such as the legendary Rolex R&D and innovation, possibly ‘less-delicate’ than other dress-watches, and low cost of ownership, things which other brands can only dream of. Every detail, whether it is dial related, case, movement, leather strap and clasp, has gone through a great deal of Rolex R&D. In other worlds perfection. I personally look forward to seeing Rolex enhance this collection, which will surely redefine the dress-watch category.
Chopard Alpine Eagle 41 XPS
Chopard continues to enhance its stellar Alpine Eagle sports watch collection. Among its launches for W&W 2023, the Alpine Eagle 41 XPS crafted in Chopard’s trademarked Lucent Steel is my pick. Sustainability is paramount to how Chopard approaches watchmaking, and its Lucent Steel comprises of 80% recycled steel. The version used for this model is Lucent Steel A223, which according to Chopard, is ‘exclusive, ultra-resistant and light reflecting.’ And the dial, ‘a Monte Rosa pink colour obtained through a galvanic treatment – finish design inspired by the iris of an eagle – gold base, Roman numerals and indexes coated with Super-LumiNova.’ Besides the hour and minute hands, there is a small-seconds dial at 6 o’clock. To the delight of many, there is no date window at 4 o’clock. The case diameter is 41 mm.
This timepiece is powered by self-winding L.U.C. calibre 96.40-L and is visible through a sapphire caseback. It beats at a frequency of 28800 V.P.H., has a Balance spring with a Phillips terminal curve, and a power reserve of approximately 65 hours due to Chopard’s Twin Technology, a system that combines two coaxial barrels.And the microrotor is crafted in 22K gold. L.U.C. calibre 96.40-L is certified by the COSC and is hallmarked by the Poincon de Geneva or Geneva Seal.
In a world of sports watches dominated by Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore, Patek Philippe Nautilus and Aquanaut, and Vacheron Constantin Overseas, Chopard’s Alpine Eagle has cemented its own identity and more than holds its own. Its design is a modern classic. The Alpine Eagle 41 XPS, with its commitment to sustainability, gorgeous dial, a calibre which benefits from Chopard’s Twin Technology, gorgeous movement finishing, and chronometer performance, is among the most complete, versatile, and perfect time-only watches in the world right now.
Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph
Launched in 1931, Jaeger LeCoultre’s (JLC) Reverso collection needs no introduction. A rectangular timepiece, with its patented reversible case, is among the most iconic family of timepieces in the world. Reversos are either Monoface, where the front side displays the time, leaving the reverse blank side open to personal engravings or miniature art; or Duoface (or Duetto for ladies’ models), where the reverse side displays time, with a different aesthetic. By ‘time’ I am referring to any other feature or complication as well – such as date, power-reserve, moonphase, calendar, and grand complications such as tourbillons and minute-repeaters – depending on individual model.
For W&W 2023, JLC has launched the Reverso Tribute Chronograph. The Reverso chronograph was last seen in 1996 and is now back in JLC’s catalogue with the new in-house manual-winding calibre 860. The front side is classic Reverso Tribute, with its baton hour markers, dauphine hands and railroad minute track, displaying the hours and minutes. It’s only the presence of the two pushers that reveals ‘something else’ is going on. Flip the case over, and one is presented with an open-worked dial, displaying the identical time as the front side (not dual-time as in some other Reverso’s), with a large centre seconds hand, and retrograde 30-minute counter on a semi-subdial at 6’o clock. Calibre 860 incorporates a column wheel chronograph with a horizontal clutch, beats at 28800 V.P.H. and has a power reserve of 52 hours. The case measures (L*W) 49.4 mm * 29.9 mm, and a thickness of 11.14 mm. The Reverso Tribute Chronograph is available in two versions. They are:
- Pink Gold with Black Sunray-brushed dial (front) and Black, Opaline dial (reverse).
Delivered with two interchangeable straps by Casa Fagliano, calfskin leather and calfskin leather (black).
- Stainless Steel with Blue Sunray-brushed dial (front) and Black, Opaline dial (reverse).
Delivered with two interchangeable straps by Casa Fagliano, calfskin leather (bleu marine) and calfskin leather (black).
Developing an in-house column wheel chronograph is a challenge by itself. Developing one for a rectangular timepiece on a two-sided watch display is a herculean task. JLC manages to accomplish it. No wonder JLC is known as the watchmaker’s watchmaker. They create horological magic which most others can only dream of. JLC usually launches most models in a stainless-steel version as well, making them (relatively) more accessible to a wider horological audience. The same is true with the Reverso Tribute Chronograph’s stainless-steel version. The duality of this fabulous timepiece – classical time only on one side, edgy-futuristic chronograph on the other side, along with JLC’s reliability and 8-year warranty, has won me over. For me, it is the Watch of the Show for W&W 2023. This is horology at its absolute best.
Few other timepieces I liked were the Cartier Skeleton Micro-Rotor, Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duoface Tourbillon, Patek Philippe Calatrava 6007G-010 (red accents), Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5316/50P, Rolex Sky-Dweller with mint green dial, Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Date Openface and Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Dual Moon Grand Complication. The industry continues to amaze with its level of horology and creativity.