We kick off our traditional after-show armchair picks from our writers his year, with the list from our Indian correspondent, Kunal Khemka. He picks his top 3 watches from Watches & Wonders 2022, and shares this article.
Armchair picks: Kunal’s 3 of the best from W&W 2022
Watches & Wonders 2022 was just held in Geneva, Switzerland. Being a live event, it attracted visitors from around the world and had much needed human interaction which was missing last year. In 2021, W&W was a virtual event. While I plan of attending this show at some point (hopefully 2023); W&W 2022 coverage on Instagram – whether by horology platforms and media, and the brands themselves – was Excellent. It was the next best thing to being there. It takes time to go through each brand and absorb and process what they have launched. Once again, the horology industry has surprised with incredible horology and creativity. Choosing three top picks from W&W 2022 is a challenging task as I could easily choose ten at least. I have tried my best to choose three timepieces and I use this opportunity to write about them.
The Laurent Ferrier (LF) Classic Origin Blue is not exactly a new model. The Classic Origin was launched in 2020 to celebrate LF’s tenth anniversary. For W&W 2022, LF has launched this model with an ‘intense blue dial’. LF has given this classic model an entirely new lease of life, at least to my eyes. LF, an extremely prestigious independent brand, possibly does not have the resources of much larger mainstream brands who are able to launch a range of diverse models. For them (and any independent or even mainstream brand for this matter) to launch an existing model with a new dial can be important. Yet for the timepiece to be this beautiful and be able to shine amidst the expansive sea of models launched at W&W is a huge testament to LF’s abilities as a watchmaker.
The Classic Origin is a traditional three-hander with a Gradient Blue Opaline Dial. The dial has an abundance of details. These include four 18K White Gold Drop-Shaped Indices, two at 12’ O clock and one each at 3’O Clock and 9’O Clock. The Assegai-shaped Hour and Minute hands are crafted from 18K White Gold, and the Baton-shaped Seconds hand is crafted from 18K White Gold. A railway-style minute track occupies the edge of the dial, which is painted in a powder grey colour, along with light blue numerals. The case is made of Grade 5 Titanium and measures 40mm with a thickness of 11.10mm. And present is the LF signature ‘Onion’ crown. The Classic Origin is powered by LF’s in-house manual wind calibre LF116.10, which was developed to celebrate the brand’s tenth anniversary in 2020. It is visible via a sapphire caseback. It is a traditional Swiss-Lever movement with Screw Balance, with a Breguet overcoil balance spring, and LF’s famous long-blade ratchet system. Calibre LF116.10 has details such as a soft micro-blasted, black rhodium finish, with hand-polished edges, individually polished screwhead, and the escapement bridge reveals a hand-made interior angle. When full wound, it beats at a frequency of 21600 vph (3Hz) and has a long power reserve of 80 hours. And the watch is accompanied with a Dark Blue Nubuck leather strap with Alcantara lining, with the pin-buckle also crafted in Grade 5 Titanium.
The Classic Origin in Blue has a mix of both traditional and modern elements. Classical aesthetic (like much of the LF range), but in a colour which is youthful and versatile. Traditional movement but finished in a modern style. And a case metal – titanium – means it can be worn more frequently, especially for those who are afraid to wear precious metal watches daily for fear of dings and scratches. Overall, these elements add up to a beautifully executed three-hander with an abundance of details. I love three-hander timepieces, and for me the Classic Origin in Blue represents a superb execution of this genre. It conveys a lot of emotion, and I can see myself adding this to my collection and wearing with pride. While it is expensive, it is still far more affordable than many of LF’s other pieces, and by other independents. A Classical and Modern timepiece all in one, and a real winner.
In W&W 2020, Vacheron Constantin (VC) amazed the horology world with the launch of the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton in Pink Gold, followed by the White Gold version in W&W 2021. Just when you think VC cannot top this, they reveal the Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton in Pink Gold and Titanium for W&W 2022. I was completely blown away, especially the Titanium version.
The process of skeletonizing the self-winding calibre 2160 with peripheral rotor into calibre 2160 SQ has transformed the Overseas Tourbillon into a different timepiece from the ‘regular’ Overseas Tourbillon. According to VC, skeletonization has resulted in a 20% reduction in the movements weight and a complete rethink of its architecture. Among the several changes made to skeletonize this calibre, VC has used NAC surface treatment applied by electrolysis on the baseplate, four bridges, and the barrel, the latter of which the drum and cover are completely open worked. NAC treatment conveys an anthracite grey tint. Also, for this new calibre 2160 SQ, the watchmakers have redesigned the regulating organ housed inside the tourbillon carriage coupled with the escapement. The calibre has a new in-house balance spring equipped with a Breguet overcoil. Much more can be written about this amazing calibre, but one thing is for sure; VC maintains its status as the King of Skeletonization. To my eyes, few can do it as well as them. Calibre 2160 SQ beats at 18000 vph (2.5 hz) and has a power reserve of 80 hours and is certified by the Poincon de Geneva or Geneva Seal. The case is made of Grade 5 Titanium, and the timepiece measures 42.5mm with a thickness of 10.39mm. Calibre 2160 SQ is visible both dial side and caseback side. It is delivered with a Grade 5 Titanium bracelet, along with a dark blue rubber and calf-leather strap.
The skeletonised calibre 2160 SQ with its NAC treatments (as described above), along with its blue railway-style minute track and blue seconds-track around tourbillon cage, when contrasted with the colour of its titanium case is simply magical and stunning. I was at a loss for words when I first saw the pictures. VC has managed to combine the best of haute-horology traditions in a timepiece which looks modern and dare I say it – badass. Who knew that when VC introduced its third-generation Overseas family in 2016, that it would become one of the hottest timepiece families in the entire industry? With the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton, and now the Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton, they have further cemented this for themselves. The Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton is a worthy flagship for the Overseas family. It shows VC has one foot in its illustrious past (267 years continuously and counting) of traditional haute-horology, and another in the future where they can churn out modern, cool, sexy pieces such as this. This is the first time VC has crafted a timepiece in titanium. The Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton in Titanium is extremely expensive, but if I can afford this one day, it could be my end-game timepiece.
For W&W 2022, A. Lange & Sohne (Lange) has introduced the Richard Lange Minute Repeater. The Richard Lange family of timepieces are devoted to chronometric performance. They pay homage to observation watches of the 18th and 19th century. The Richard Lange family have a simple classical aesthetic, with impressive movements. And it is the same with the Richard Lange Minute Repeater.
On the dial side, the aesthetics are the same as the Richard Lange “Pour Le Merite.” If not for the minute repeater activator slide on the left side of the dial, one could never tell this is a chiming timepiece. The dial, made of 18K white gold and white enamel, is typical Lange with black Roman numerals and railway-style outer minute track, large seconds subdial with black Arabic numerals and railway-style outer seconds track, and blued steel hands. Beneath this dial is the magnificent calibre L122.1, developed in-house by Lange.
When the slide is activated, the repeater will chime the hours (lower pitch), quarters (double tone), and minutes (higher-pitched tone). Lange does not just repeat what has already been done before. They always try and improve upon a type of movement or complication. As such, calibre L122.1 has three innovations: A) A pause elimination feature. B) A safety device so the repeater cannot be activated in two instances: i) when the crown is pulled out and ii) blocks from pulling the crown when the repeater is active. C) A patented hammer blocker. Both the dial and calibre L122.1 are cased in a 39.0mm platinum case, with a 9.7mm thickness. These proportions are quite thin for a Lange, making the Richard Lange Minute Repeater quite wearable. And typical of Lange, the timepiece comes with a crocodile leather strap with a platinum deployant buckle. While this is a limited edition of fifty watches, I will not be surprised if Lange introduces a pink or white gold version in the future. Though it must be noted that crafting this calibre would take considerable time.
Lange was revived in 1994, and soon thereafter astonished the horology world with their amazing timepieces with impeccable movement finishing. I consider them to be the ‘fourth member’ of the Holy Trinity, comprising of Audemars Piguet, Patek Phillippe and Vacheron Constantin. Perhaps the presence of Lange forced the Holy Trinity and others to increase their level of watchmaking. While Lange became a leader in Chronographs – the original Datograph was introduced in 1999 – they were late to the Minute Repeater party. Not only Lange, but the Germans were not known for striking watches, which remain mainly the expert purvue of the Valee de Joux and the Swiss. Germany did not have a minute repeater made by a German brand until the Tutima Hommage Minute Repeater in 2011. Minute Repeaters are considered the pinnacle of horology, and even today, a handful of brands have the knowhow to craft them and get it right. Lange’s first minute repeater was introduced in 2013 in their Grand Complication. This was followed by the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater in 2015. The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is a Decimal Minute Repeater and an engineering masterpiece. Just when you think you have seen it all, Lange goes ahead and introduces the classical Richard Lange Minute Repeater. For modern Lange, which is a new company (28 later this year) when compared to its peers, and with an output of five thousand watches a year (less during the pandemic), to have two distinct minute repeater movements is an amazing achievement. Most brands would be more than content with one minute repeater movement if at all. This alone illustrates how special Lange is as a watchmaker. I am glad the Richard Lange Minute Repeater exists. The world of horology is all the better for it.
As I mentioned earlier, choosing three top picks this year was a challenging task. There were others that I liked as well. Few of these include the Cartier Masse Mysterieuse and Prive Tank Chinoise, Jaeger Le Coultre Polaris Perpetual Calendar, Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante, Patek Phillippe Calatrava 5226G-001 and Perpetual Calendar with Salmon Dial 5320G-001, Rolex Air King and Day Date 40 in Platinum with Fluted Bezel, and Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 and Traditionnelle Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin (ladies). And I am sure there are several others. Once again, I was most impressed with the level of horology and creativity shown by the industry.