Here is our Reader Contribution to round up the “Best of” series on Watches and Wonders 2021. Kunal Khemka picks his top 5.
The best from Watches and Wondere 2021 – a collector’s top 5 picks
Watches & Wonders (W&W) 2021 was held purely as a Digital Event. While the ‘human interaction’ which defines these trade shows was missing, the brands more than made up for it by several amazing updates and new releases. I was not expecting much and was quite surprised. More so because since the past year, the entire world has been grappling with a pandemic, and almost every global industry is disrupted by supply-chain disruptions. While I am still ogling over and slowly digesting the details of the new timepieces, I use this opportunity to present my top 5-picks.
NOMOS Metro 41 Update and Tangente 41 Neomatik Update
The Tangente Neomatik 41 Update is not a new model. But for W&W it has been updated with a Midnight Blue Dial, in which the current date markers are in Neon Green. This timepiece’s automatic caliber DUW 6101 (with patented date function and a proprietary escapement, known as the Nomos Swing System) is now also available in the Nomos Metro family as the Metro 41 Update – in a white silver-plated dial, where the current date markers are in Orange.
These new dial and case updates add an extra bit of colour to an already amazing timepiece. Nomos’s philosophy proves that timepieces do not have to be exorbitantly priced to be amazing. These two timepieces are brilliantly executed and relatively affordable. They are not ‘lesser’ than their high-end haute horology cousins. Infact they can hold their own next to timepieces many times more expensive. I have long admired the Nomos Tangente 41 Neomatik Update, and with these new dial and case additions, I want them even more. They are at home in any collection. I believe every collection should include at least one Nomos.
My pick: Metro 41 Update with white-silver plated dial.
Cartier SolarBeat Tank Must
Dating back to 1917, the Cartier Tank is one of the most iconic designs of our times, not just in watchmaking, but in overall design aesthetics. Cartier has made many versions and variations of the classic Tank across the decades. For W&W 2021, Cartier has successfully combined the timeless aesthetic of the Tank with two ground-breaking innovations.
The first innovation is a solar powered movement which works on the photovoltaic principle. Light enters the dial through perforated openings on the Roman numerals, through which they reach the photovoltaic cells hidden beneath the dial and hence power the watch. This SolarBeat movement has an average lifespan of 16 years before requiring service. The second innovation is a strap produced using waste from apples. The production process requires less water and energy, thereby being a lot more environmentally friendly as compared to the process of producing a traditional leather strap.
This will appeal hugely to environmentally friendly trends today, as well as to a rising trend of vegetarianism in parts of the world. And this strap could be a sign of things to come across the broader Cartier (and perhaps other Richemont brands) spectrum.
The majority of timepiece buyers are not necessarily ‘WIS’ or serious timepiece collectors. They nonetheless seek and deserve a respectable timepiece which can serve them in most situations. And they possibly do not want the added ‘headache’ that comes with having timepieces serviced. I think Cartier understands this perfectly and deserves huge credit for anticipating the needs of such customers. By injecting this photovoltaic innovation in their most timeless design, and pricing it such so it appeals to a slightly ‘larger mass’ market of luxury timepiece customers, they have a winner on their hands. This is a timepiece I would love to own.
My pick: SolarBeat Tank Must Large Model (33mm * 25.5mm), Stainless Steel Case with Ivory coloured dial.
Patek Philippe Calatrava “Clous de Paris” Reference 6119R and 6119G
The Calatrava 6119 can trace its origins back to the Reference 96 (1932) and Reference 96D (1936). The latter version introduced the “Clous de Paris” bezel. The numbering ‘6119’ pays tribute to the Reference 3919 (1985) and Reference 5119 (2006). From the ground up this is a no-holds-barred 100% all-new timepiece. It has a new case, 39mm in diameter, and thickness 8.1mm. The dial is classic Calatrava – with gold applied markers, dauphine hands, and small seconds at 6’o clock. The outer edge of the dial has a rail-road style minutes track, and behind each applied marker there is an applied gold round marker (a lovely touch). And the bezel is the “Clous de Paris” pattern. Powering the 6119 is an all-new modern movement – Caliber 30-255 PS. It provides a power reserve of 65 hours using two mainspring barrels in a parallel arrangement. It beats at a frequency of 28800 v.p.h. (4 Hz) and has a stop-seconds mechanism.
To say the 6119 is a big deal would be an understatement. For me it was the biggest deal of W&W 2021. For the last couple of years, it seemed that dress watches were becoming extinct. I was not fully convinced because I noticed significant interest in dress-watches among my WIS friends, both offline and on social media. But I did feel Patek was not doing enough to overhaul its Calatrava collection. The 6119 proves that Patek is not ‘just about the Nautilus and Aquanaut family’, and they have been ‘listening to the needs of clients’ who are not obsessed with steel sports timepieces. The 6119 is Patek being Patek. It is the perfect gateway to Patek, while also appealing to seasoned Patek collectors. While I am excited about the 6119, I am equally eager to see the direction they take with this new caliber 30-255 PS in the Calatrava family. Now I am sure there is a Patek for me in the near future. And I am looking forward to it.
My pick: Calatrava 6119 “Clous de Paris” Reference 6119R in Rose Gold.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton in White Gold
When Vacheron Constantin (VC) introduced this reference in Pink Gold during W&W 2020, I believe they had created one of their most beautiful modern timepieces. In my humble opinion, VC has historically, and also continued to make, some of the most beautiful timepieces. They successfully combined the ultra-thin Overseas case with an open worked version of the legendary caliber 1120 QP. They are superb at the delicate skill of open working. It seemed that VC could not ‘better this’. With this new white gold version, that is exactly what they did.
By combining white gold with blue accents on the dial (outer minute track, week, month, date and moonphase subdials), VC has made this timepiece a ‘lot cooler’ and ‘less formal’ without sacrificing its gorgeousness and elegance. And a tad badass. The ingenious strap change system means one can be as formal or casual with this timepiece. A leather and rubber strap in blue is included in addition to the white gold bracelet.
Timepieces such as this are extremely expensive. And yet we should be grateful that they exist as they add immense aspirational value. While the caliber 1120 QPSQ is not the most complicated caliber VC makes (at least by their extreme capabilities and high standards); the overall execution and beauty of this timepiece, along with its versatility proves that this is once again VC at the top of the horological pyramid.
My pick: Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton in White Gold (on either leather or rubber strap.)
A Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar – White Gold with Pink Gold Dial (Limited to 150 pieces) and Pink Gold with Grey Dial
Up until now, Lange’s only standalone perpetual calendar timepiece was the Langematik Perpetual Calendar introduced in 2001 (now discontinued). Lange has historically combined perpetual calendars with tourbillons and chronographs. Since 2014, there has been the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, a real grail and huge technical achievement (due to the unique calendar displays) among grand complication timepieces.
For W&W 2021, Lange has revealed the standalone Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar, which is a ‘toned’ down version of the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar. And it is priced at about a third of the latter. The dial, with its unique calendar display, looks almost the same with a few subtle differences. This new reference also incorporates the moon phase / day-night indicator first introduced in the second-generation Lange 1 Moon phase. Powering it is self-winding caliber L021.3, Lange’s 67th in-house caliber. This caliber is based on the Lange 1 Daymatic’s caliber L021.1. It beats at 21600 v.p.h. (3 Hz). Adorned with a gorgeous unidirectional 21K gold rotor with an additional centrifugal mass in platinum, hand-engraved balance cock, 63 rubies, and 5 screwed gold chatons, the L021.3 is a visual feast for the eyes. Among the high-end perpetual calendars, the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar, with its unique calendar displays and amazing movement once again proves why Lange is such an amazing watchmaker. I believe this reference will be a winner in the years to come.
My pick: Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar in Pink Gold with Grey Dial.
There were others I liked too. Some of them include the Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 in White Gold with strap from Serapian of Milan; Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Nonantieme; Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, and the Patek Phillipe In-Line Perpetual Calendar Reference 5236P. I look forward to seeing most or all of these timepieces when I travel. And I hope the industry continues with this amazing creative and technical drive.