With the watch industry’s big annual horology fest, Watches and Wonders, still three months away, the Swiss watch industry likes to keep its powder dry in the dark days of January. So it’s often slim pickings for watch hounds after some novelties. A bright spot however is LVMH Watch Week, which took place in Miami a few days ago. Featured are new pieces from Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Hublot, and Zenith—and this time around the newsworthy reappearance of niche brands Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta. Here’s Esquire’s pick of the highlights.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph
While 2023 focused all of TAG Heuer’s attention on the 60th anniversary of its iconic Carrera chronograph—and gave us a family of new and much-liked "Glassbox" Carrera updates—2024 sees new directions. Though the Carrera reappeared in Miami in the form of two new chronographs (a single-register with date and a tourbillon-equipped version, both with minty metallic green dials), for us the real showstopper was at the other end of the brand's offering.
The Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph ($2,150) is a quartz-driven watch powered not by a battery but by solar radiation gathered through the dial by a light-sensitive cell. First appearing in 2022, and then issued in a titanium version, the Solargraph released last week is in a diminutive 34mm. You might think 34mm makes this strictly a woman’s watch. But in the last few years, trends to more discreetly sized watches have eclipsed the behemoths of the aughts. Nowadays, smaller looks better than ever.
Zenith Chronomaster Sport
The pillar of Zenith’s modern offer is the El Primero automatic chronograph movement it launched way back in 1969. In limbo for two decades while the watch industry got its obsession with quartz out of its system, the movement reappeared in the mid '90s. But it was only in the past decade, with the introduction of the Chronomaster Sport and Chronomaster Revival watches, that the El Primero became the brand's overriding obsession. Both are out-and-out sport watches with a whiff of modern luxury.
But none have quite as much luxe as the new gem-set Chronomaster Sport ($98,600) that emerged in Miami. With a solid rose gold case and matching bracelet, the watch features diamonds, spinels, and sapphires and a gold meteorite dial. Shy and retiring it ain’t. Beneath all the glam however beats the most modern iteration of the El Primero: the 3600, which can record time to 1/10th of a second.
Hublot Classic Fusion Tourbillon Orlinksi
The relative newcomer in the bunch, Hublot was founded in 1980 on the premise that people like to have their expectations confounded. Its first ever watch combined a solid gold case with a black rubber strap—an unheard of combination back then. Ever since, Hublot has focused on mashing up state-of-the-art materials and serious watchmaking chutzpah. Art has played a big role from early on, with artist collaborations that go way beyond slapping something on the dial.
French artist Richard Orlinski—known for his multi-faceted, high-tech statues of bears and gorillas—has worked with Hublot since 2017. Last week the brand debuted two new ceramic Classic Fusion pieces ($95,000 each) in unusual yellow and sky-blue ceramics featuring Orlinski’s faceted approach in case and strap. This being Hublot, of course the insides matter just as much as the outsides, and both feature the HUB6021 manual-wind skeletonized tourbillon movement.
Bulgari Bulgari Watch
While the stately Roman jewelry brand has energetically pushed the envelope in high horology over the past decade, making ever thinner, ever more technically advanced watches in its Octo Finissimo line—and broken records and won awards in equal measure—little focus has been put on the other end of its production roster.
Consider, for instance, the original Bulgari Bulgari watch, its first from 1975. It was a watch that combined simplicity and ostentation in equal measure, with clean lines and "Bulgari" engraved twice on the flat surface of the bezel—hence the name. While we will have to wait until Geneva for the real horological fireworks to kick off, the introduction of a yellow gold, black dial Bulgari Bulgari in 26mm ($8,250) and 38mm ($13,200) has a refreshing and welcome simplicity about it that speaks volumes about the house’s sense of style.
Gerald Genta Mickey Mouse Minute Repeater
Before Bulgari was bought up by LVMH it already had its own stable of niche brands on whose expertise it could draw as it sought to majorly up the ante in its watchmaking. One of them was Gerald Genta, founded by the OG of watch design, who in a long career created some of the most iconic watches ever made—think the Royal Oak, The Nautilus, the Cartier Pasha, and, yes, the Bulgari Bulgari, too.
But Genta also turned out—albeit in very small numbers and at his own pace—retrogrades, grandes sonneries, and perpetual calendars for an adoring collector’s market. Genta also had a penchant for shaking up the often po-faced demeanor of this end of the watch industry. Last week Miami’s biggest news was arguably its most niche: the official rebirth of a stable known for its mind-bending high horology. Most eye-catching was the Mickey Mouse Minute Repeater in an edition of 1, which was created for the 10th edition of the Only Watch auction—not to mention the 100th anniversary of Disney and the 50th of the first Gerald Genta watch—at the end of last year.
Daniel Roth Tourbillon Souscription
More obscure perhaps even than Gerald Genta, Daniel Roth was founded by a dyed-in-the-wool Swiss watchmaker who, from the late 1980s, specialized in extremely classic functions and finishes in a uniquely modern half-square, half-elliptical case that he made his own. Roth’s first watch was also one of the first wristwatches to feature a tourbillon mechanism.
Revived alongside Gerald Genta last week, Daniel Roth presented its Tourbillon Souscription, featuring many of the hallmarks of Roth’s original output including a solid gold guilloche dial, blued steel hands, and Roth’s signature double ellipse case. It comes in an edition of 20 and is already pre-sold to collectors (sorry ‘bout that).
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