Watches & Jewellery

Time frame: the watch designs that make us tick

22 Jan 2019

Vacheron Constantin’s FiftySix Self-Winding
22 January

A time-only display, eschewing frills, perfectly suits the concept of Vacheron Constantin’s FiftySix line, which debuted last year. Augmented at SIHH 2019 by a fetching new dial colour, the FiftySix Self-Winding with sweep seconds is the ideal way to experience what the company calls ’petrol blue’. This rich, royal hue creates a luxurious mien, accented by applied 18-ct white gold numerals for the even hours, with sword hands for the time-telling and an aperture at 3 o’clock for the date. Its 40mm stainless steel case is moisture resistant to 30m. Visible through the sapphire case back is the in-house self-winding 1326 movement, with 48-hour power reserve. Pure class…

Writer: Ken Kessler

Piaget 2019 Limelight Gala
21 January

While many watch maisons use the SIHH platform to underline new technical innovation, Piaget, rightly, reminds us of its unique way with decoration – in precious metals and semi-precious hard stones. Having pursued a glamorous design style that fuses both watch and jewellery techniques in the 1960s and 1970s (left), the watchmaker-jeweller has maintained its reputation for exceptional goldwork and gemsetting. While today it focuses on developing new decorative gold techniques, each year it delights with a contemporary update of one of its classic design. The 2019 Limelight Gala, (right), is created using the houses’s classic ‘Décor Palace’ gold finishing technique, each link being hand-engraved. That richness is deliberately matched to heighten the exotic deep-green malachite dial and invisibly set diamonds. 

Writer: Caragh McKay

Cartier Skeleton Dual Time Zone Tonneau
18 January

Cartier’s reputation for creating horology’s most stylish watch forms, ranging from the classic to the sublime, continues apace. But, each year at SIHH, its serious tech credentials rise to the top in the form of beautifully realised engineered pieces such as this Skeleton Dual Time Zone Tonneau. A supremely elegant feat of engineering, the watch case’s elongated form required a specially curved movement so as not to alter the Tonneau’s eponymous shape. It is also ergonomically considered for a smooth fit on the wrist. In skeletonising the movement, Cartier is infusing serious mechanics with its ever-light touch.

Writer: Caragh McKay

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date
15 January

Anniversaries are all about dates, so A. Lange & Söhne has aptly chosen to celebrate 10 years of the fabulous Zeitwerk, the brand’s first mechanical wristwatch with a digital display for jumping hours, with a clever new function.

The Zeitwerk Date’s display encircles the grey dial fitted into the 44.2-millimetre white-gold case, forming a clever system that shows the date in red. To achieve this visual treat, Lange employed a circumferential glass date ring with printed numerals from 1 to 31. The current date is highlighted in red thanks to a small colour segment beneath the date ring which moves ahead exactly one step at midnight.

Writer: Ken Kessler

Seiko Prospex, Street Series
18 December

The Seiko Prospex Street Series nods to the design of the original 1975 Seiko diver’s watch; the first to have a titanium case, its accordion-style strap cleverly expanded and contracted as the divers increased their depth. Lightness and strength remain significant idiosyncrasies of today’s design, and a case reinforced with silicon bands is reassuringly robust. Tweaks to the profile present a more streamlined whole, while the choice of aluminium for the bezel ensures a modern silhouette. Striking the balance between style, wearability and functionality was imperative in the design: ‘We’ve channelled the retro "tuna" shape from the 1975 divers’ model into a more compact, yet reinforced watch,’ explains David Edwards, Seiko UK managing director. ‘It is robust enough to dive 200m under the sea but stylish enough to be worn on the street.’ A clash of textures further blurs the lines between urbane and adventurer, with aluminium and steel softened by a silicone accordion strap treated with a leather pattern process.

Writer: Hannah Silver

Nomos Bauhaus
11 December

Timepieces by German brand Nomos follow the Bauhaus tenets of clean, functional product design, with pristine dial space picked out with useful details. Now, its Tangente neomatik 41 Update has been awarded the Challenge Prize at the 2018 GPHG Awards, a category that was introduced this year with a focus on design-savvy watches below the CHF 4,000 mark. The DUW 6101 movement includes a clever new calendar system encircling the entire dial, which is marked out with Nomos’ signature slimline markings and elongated indices. Counting down the days is simple: at the outer edge, the perforated plate allows two cherry-red indicators to show through the shallow layers, one on either side of the correct date.

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

Rado Thinline Nature
22 November

Rado, the Swiss watchmaker known for its innovative approach to materials, is combining its signature high-tech ceramic with richly textured dials in a new series of True Thinline watches. The models come as part of a creative partnership with Grandi Giardini Italiani, an organisation dedicated to preserving Italy’s historic grand gardens, and each watch has a fittingly nature-inspired dial. 

One model, the Leaf, features a lustrous mother-of-pearl dial in bottle green, threaded underneath with delicate veins - a contrast to the soft shimmer of the polished green ceramic case. Cleverly, each elongated hour marker has been applied onto the underside of the sapphire crystal, so that the watch’s shallow layers are delicately picked out - no mean feat on a watch just 5mm thick. The True Thinline Water’s deep blue mother-of-pearl dial hints at breaking waves, while the brown ceramic Earth takes another approach: the metallised coating on the dial has a grainy glitter.

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

Calvin Klein Rebel
14 November

Raf Simons has introduced some of his signature colour into Calvin Klein’s watches and jewellery arm, as he continues in his role as chief creative officer, unifying each branch of the brand through one, coherent vision. The new collection, and particularly the Rebel watch (pictured here in an Americana-inspired blue, also available in green and red), visually references other aspects of Calvin Klein’s contemporary offerings. Inspired by the statement stripe seen on trousers in Simons’ first Calvin Klein 205W39NYC runway for SS18, and now on jeans throughout the numerous #mycalvins campaign, Rebel marks a bold and continued progression towards the Simons aesthetic, particularly as Calvin Klein watches have predominantly favoured metal or muted pastel shades in the past. 

Writer: Elly Parsons

Gucci G-Timeless 
7 November

Logomania shows zero sign of abating on the catwalks. Just look to Gucci’s A/W 2018 runway, which featured tessellated ‘GG’ logo overcoats and Eighties bomber jackets with ‘Gucci’ embellished in glittering beading. Now, the Italian house has translated this typography-focused aesthetic into its latest 38mm version of the G-Timeless watch. The dial and strap of this design features the ‘GG’ logo as a floating hologram in a futuristic and illusory play on the Gucci motif. Now that’s another Gucci emblem we’ll be adding to our wardrobe.

Writer: Laura Hawkins

30 October

For their first timepiece, designer Jack Munro and engineer Harri Lewis, founders of new London watchmakers Cloak, are splitting the watch into building blocks. Each part - the case, dial, bezel and strap - can be swapped out and exchanged, with an emphasis on natural materials. Various stones, including granite, marble and travertine, have been thinly sliced into 1mm-thick dials, and the rock’s natural inclusions are made a feature of: there are no numerals, and only a truncated hour hand on the expansive, minimalist dial. ‘We wanted to create something very sculptural, a simple piece of uninterrupted natural material but with clear functionality,’ says Lewis. ‘The Barcelona Pavilion was our biggest influence: we’re trying to achieve that combination of rich materiality and modern geometry with the elegance that Mies van der Rohe did, but in miniature form,’ adds Munro.

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel 
19 October

Ulysse Nardin has created an angled, box-domed crystal to house its new Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel – crafted from synthetic sapphire, it’s a complex piece to engineer, requiring months of careful R&D. However, the crystal’s real purpose is to showcase the extraordinary openworked dial beneath. The movement’s components, including the gear trains, barrel, power reserve indicator and the tourbillon appear to float above the black honeycomb-textured dial. When viewed from the side, they rise up with surprising height. The tourbillon takes a similarly non-traditional approach to materials, swapping a Swiss lever escapement for Ulysse Nardin’s in-house Anchor Escapement, made entirely from flexible, low-friction silicon.

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

MB&F Grant 
18 October 

MB&F’s clever creations with Swiss clockmakers L’Epée 1839 always raise a smile. Grant, a futurist robot clock crafted from 268 separate components, is designed to trundle around like his namesake, the Grant tank – although this desktop version is best suited to a terrain of papers and pencils. The eight-day movement is visible through his glass-domed head, and with the tilting clock acting as his body, the robot can be manoeuvred into lying, crouching, or standing up at his full 26cm height. In his right hand, Grant wields a removable grenade launcher that doubles up as a key to wind the mechanism and set the correct time. Desk duty has never been so much fun.  

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

Optik Instruments Horizon
10 October 

The new steel Horizon from Henley watchmakers Optik Instruments takes an intuitive approach. The watch’s dial rotates once every 24 hours, its numerals and indices aligning with a red line on the internal bezel to indicate the time. Rather than squeeze 1,440 minutes onto the outer track, it’s divided into leisurely 15-minute increments, marking out the key milestones in each hour. After a while, the wearer will begin to judge the approximate time at a glance based on the position of the ‘horizon’ bisecting the dial; under a gently domed crystal, the contrast between butter yellow and pale grey is striking. We’re feeling less hurried already.

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

Hublot Big Bang One Click Blue Sapphire Diamonds
19 September 

We’ve a soft spot for Hublot’s adventurous approach to fine watches for women. For its latest tough tech design, the Big Bang One Click Blue Sapphire Diamonds, it has taken a sports-luxe angle, producing a see-through case in pastel-hued or clear sapphire crystal. The effect is joyous – like a toy watch, but exquisitely made to stand the test of time. As originally featured in Precious Index, our Watches & Jewellery supplement (see W*230)

Photography: James Robjant. Writer: Caragh McKay

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date
5 September

The creation of the Fifty Fathoms has become watch design lore: in 1952, French combat diver Captain Bob Maloubier drafted a practical tool watch for his team, but struggled to find a willing watchmaker – enter Blancpain. The Fifty Fathoms established a dive watch language that has been followed ever since, with a unidirectional bezel – meaning it wouldn’t spin backwards to show a false dive time – and chunky, luminescent hour markers, legible at depth. The new 45mm, titanium Fifty Fathoms Grande Date follows those same codes, with the addition of an instant-change large date complication split over two windows at 6 o’clock. 

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

Rado True Open Heart Skeleton Ceramic Watch
22 August

The chocolate-coloured ceramic that Rado brought to Baselworld three years ago is far more complex to mix than monochrome ceramics, requiring the inclusion of several metal oxides before sintering. When viewed with the naked eye, it shimmers with a slick oiliness. Now, the Swiss watchmaker has used the material for the monobloc case and the bracelet of the True Open Heart Skeleton, with an openworked dial sliced into geometric shapes to reveal the gear trains and balance wheel beneath.

Writer: Caitlin McDonald


Junghans Meister MEGA
15 August

German brand Junghans, known for its utilitarian Max Bill wristwatches, draws on its earlier archives for the new Meister MEGA. Anton Ziegler designed for Junghans from the 1930s to the 1960s, and the Meister watch takes cues from his work for its clear, precise dimensions. Precision is the name of the game inside the Meister MEGA too: a new J101 movement tells time with pinpoint accuracy, via a radio signal with a deviation of 0.006 seconds per million years.

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

Fiona Krüger Mechanical Entropy
31 July

Pigeonholing is a risk for any designer who bursts onto the scene with a groundbreaking, signature piece - but Fiona Krüger need not worry. Chaos is a disruptive departure from the Scottish designer’s skull-shaped, mechanical watches, and, like its name suggests, embraces ideas of order and disorder via a semi-skeletonised, dial-less watch that depicts an explosion of watch parts. Pop art, the Dada movement and most notably Cornelia Parker’s ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’ were all muses, while the movement itself is a bespoke creation, made for Krüger by Agenhor, the Swiss premier movement maker which has developed watches for Van Cleef & Arpels, Fabergé and Hermès. Limited to 40 pieces, the titanium watch comes in two finishes – black with either rhodium or gold (pictured) – with new models launching later this year.

Writer: Ming Liu

Timex Marlin
26 July

The original Timex Marlin was launched in the 1960s, accompanied by an ad campaign with all the swagger of advertising’s Golden Age. In one broadcast, a watch was strapped to the rotating propeller of an outboard motor then fished out of the water in perfect working order, proving the tagline that it could ’take a licking and keep on ticking’. Now, the Marlin has been reissued – the first mechanical Timex watch since 1982 – and the lustrous sunburst dial, and stylised font used for the indices, are a faithful re-working of the original. We’ve fallen for it hook, line and sinker. 

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

Hermès Médor Rock
27 June

The pyramid-shaped stud is synonymous with Hermes’ accessories. Originally used to adorn hunting dog collars, the French maison began embellishing belts with the detail in the 1930s. The cabochon-like flourish is also a signature of Hermès’ Médor Rock timepiece; a secret watch concealed by a pyramid-stud, which is revealed with a press on the crown. Now, the quartz watch design has been updated with a bracelet-like triple tour strap. We’ll be winding this sleek interpretation – featuring a Black Barenia calfskin strap – around our wrist in no time.

Writer: Laura Hawkins

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Date and Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix
22 June

Tiny details can change the entire look and feel of a watch – add a few tenths of a millimetre to the width of a hand and the balance is thrown. Which makes it hard for watchmakers to produce variations on a strong parent design. Two new launches make the point. The success of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Polaris Date is that it takes more than a moment to spot the most obvious difference between it and the classic 1968 Memovox version. That model had three crowns – one for time setting, one for the internal bezel, the other for the diver’s alarm function – the new one has two. Add in today’s taste for more refined finishes and the brand’s skill in preserving the original’s character is more remarkable. Vacheron Constantin has taken a different approach with its updated Fiftysix, using the original as a starting point for what is really an entirely new design. Built around a subtly angled case, it features period details such as a box-shaped crystal and chapter ring graphic to reinforce the vintage feel. As originally featured in Precious Index, our Watches & Jewellery supplement (see W*230)

Photography: Peter Langer. Writer: Caragh McKay

Movado Museum
18 June

In 1947, American industrial designer Nathan George Horwitt conceived the Bauhaus-inspired Museum watch design for Movado, a timepiece featuring a single 12’o clock dot on the dial, symbolising the sun at high noon. The Museum of Modern Art selected Horwitt’s dial design for its permanent collection in 1960; the first time a watch was ever awarded such an accolade. Now, industrial designer Yves Béhar, who has been reinterpreting Movado timepieces since 2015, has reimagined the Museum design with a 28mm case and soft saffiano strap. You’ll be going dotty over it in no time.

Writer: Laura Hawkins

Chanel Code Coco 
15 June

‘Code’ – an enigmatic system of symbols? Or streams of computer data? In Chanel’s horological universe, it’s a mischievous mix of both. The brand’s most recent watch design, Code Coco, toys with the visual signs of the maison’s own history, as well as today’s plugged-in planet. An everyday bracelet, the geometric grid design evokes the classic quilted motif Gabrielle Coco Chanel developed in 1955 as well as a stream of computer pixels. Industrial yet elegant, it also harbours a secret: an exact miniature of the clasp of Chanel’s ‘2.55’ bag, which can be twisted across the dial, hiding it in the process.

These subtle details are heightened with the launch of the Code Coco black ceramic. The material is notoriously difficult to work with and the bracelet was a real challenge. ‘It comprises tiny squares of superhard ceramic,’ says Nicolas Beau, Chanel’s international watch and jewellery director. ‘If we placed them too close together, there was a chance they would crack. It’s ironic, perhaps, that ceramic is so very comfortable, warm and soft to wear – perfect for a bracelet design.’

The Code Coco is a worthy addition to Chanel’s short but audacious watchmaking history (the brand launched its first watch in 1987, and its first high-tech ceramic watch, the J12, in 2000). This year, it also reveals another in-house movement, the Calibre 3, with unusual, smooth, spokeless wheels. ‘Our designers are not watchmakers, they are watch lovers,’ says Beau of the French maison’s stylistic approach. ‘They don’t have a traditional design mindset.’ Proof that you need to break a code to tap into a new language. As originally featured in Precious Index, our Watches & Jewellery supplement (see W*230)

Photography: James Robjant.
Writer: Caragh McKay

Piaget Extremely Arty 
13 June

Hard stones such as malachite, tiger’s eye and onyx present a challenge to watchmakers as they are both difficult to work with (being brittle and liable to shatter) and tricky to design around (the vibrant tones of the stones can very easily dominate the watch). The secret is to ensure there’s a balance between a coloured stone’s pop punch and the watch architecture, something Swiss house Piaget demonstrates perfectly with its new Extremely Arty model. Its design, with a sizeable 45x43mm stepped-side case, is derived from a mid-1970s black-dial watch owned by Andy Warhol, a keen Piaget fan. The fact that the watch case is forceful enough to work effectively as a frame for the malachite dial points to Piaget’s jewellery-design thinking. The Extremely Arty timepiece is superbly smart and sophisticated, thanks, not least, to the way the malachite bands graduate in intensity across the dial. The white gold case, in place of the original warm yellow gold, adds a fresh, modern touch. As originally featured in Precious Index, our Watches & Jewellery supplement (see W*230)

Photography: James Robjant. Writer: Caragh McKay

Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver Bronze
11 June

Bell & Ross has expanded its square-cased divers’ range with the BR03-92 Diver Bronze, which references early diving helmets and is housed in a bronze case designed to patinate. But it’s the watch’s technical clout – its water resistance, luminescent markers, and antishock protection – that will float your boat, should you consider a stylish 300m-deep sea dive anytime soon. As originally featured in Precious Index, our Watches & Jewellery supplement (see W*230)

Photography: Peter Langer. Writer: Caragh McKay

Jaeger-Le Coultre Polaris 2018
6 June

It was in 1968 that Jaeger-LeCoultre launched its Memovox Polaris design. This technical instrument – it has an in-built alarm – had a sporty look that was seriously modern for its time. No wonder that collectors and connoisseurs still wax lyrical about the original. This year, in celebration of its 50th birthday, the Swiss watchmaker has launched a new Polaris collection inspired by that first design. Throughout June, there’s a chance to see all the pieces in one place at Harrods new fine watch department, where Jaeger-LeCoultre is staging a pop-up experience. Wallpaper’s pick? The two-crown black dial model with waffle rubber strap and vanilla Arabic numerals and indices. The hands are created using Super-LumiNova for a vintage-style glow-in-the-dark thrill. The exhibition is on view at Harrods until 27 June.

Writer: Caragh McKay

Farer Stanhope
30 May

Attention to detail is paramount at British watch brand Farer, which has launched its first series of manual-winding watches. Despite a roguish moniker – the Stanhope is named after Lady Hester Stanhope, the English adventurer who rode through the Middle East on horseback in the early 19th century – the off-white dial is carefully considered. The sandwiched central plate has a geometric piqué texture, with touches of navy, powder blue and crimson. ‘There’s always certain limitations in building anything physical, but we constantly work to find ways round them,’ explains co-founder Ben Lewin. ‘As well as multiple rounds of prototyping to perfect the thinness of the cushion case shape and finish, a lot of attention was paid in particular to the dial design and how colours work with each other.’

Writer: Caitlin McDonald


Wind-Up watch fair
17 May

Wind-Up, the watch fair from US blog Worn & Wound, makes its West Coast debut on 18 May, pitching up at San Francisco’s Chandran Gallery in the city’s Tenderloin district. Co-founders Zach Weiss and Blake Malin have cherry-picked around 25 Swiss, American and international names to showcase pieces, from start-ups to established brands such as Oris and Junghans. Independent Tel Aviv watchmakers Itay Noy bring their Full Month watch with stamped-out dates circling the dial to mark each day of the month, while Oregon-based Vero Watch Company crafts clean, utilitarian pieces with oversized digits. Bespoke Watch Projects, a Californian microbrand, will showcase its Damascus steel edition, with a dial composed of compressed layers of heat-treated steel, while young Swiss watch brand Klokers will present its KLOK-08, a style which offers a unique take on time display using rotating discs. Worn & Wound’s Wind-Up Watch Fair is on view from 18-20 May, at 459 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94102

Writer: Caitlin McDonald

Patek Philippe Pearl of Bahrain
14 May

Of the 221 lots that went under the hammer at Christie’s Rare Watches auction in Geneva today, our eyes were firmly fixed on Lot 86, a supremely rare Patek Philippe pink-gold wristwatch with natural seed-pearl hour markers. The 1958 ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ was a special commission by His Highness Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I of Bahrain for John Eardley Allcard, a British man central to the development of infrastructure in the Gulf state in the 1950s. It reached a total of CHF250,000.

Writer: Caragh McKay