Wallpaper* reported on Geneva Watch Days 2023 direct from the event a few weeks ago (29 August – 2 September), highlighting the backstory of the watch fair and some of the more eye-catching watches presented. But the range and creativity of the watchmakers taking part needs a second look to do them any sort of justice.
Pleasingly, unlimited budgets aren’t always involved, though ‘affordable’ doesn’t quite mean the same thing where watches are concerned. Designs from Louis Erard, Massena Lab and Trilobe all come in at prices that rival Tudor rather than Patek Philippe.
Interestingly, all three brands share something of a watch insider sensibility – as often as not their customers are Patek owners looking for something with a little more grit. Here we explore new watches from these brands and more.
Geneva Watch Days 2023 standouts to add to your watch list
Louis Erard has developed an enthusiastic following for its small edition collaborations with watch designers and makers that are ordinarily out of reach either through cost or rarity. Current collaborations include a set of two watches based on the work of the celebrated watch designer Alain Silberstein, that are as pure a slice of 1980s Memphis as you could imagine (but only available through the brand’s US partners) and three art-deco-inspired watches produced with Horolophile, the pick being this 39mm Petite Secondes with a tobacco-coloured dial (CHF2,300.00excl. VAT)
Louis Erard 39mm Petite Secondes with a tobacco-coloured dial, CHF2,300 (£2,066) excl VAT, louiserard.com
Trilobe has a cutely self-conscious mission to deconstruct the codes of classical watchmaking, and cites influences as diverse as the tracery of Sainte-Chapelle’s rayonnant gothic windows and the poet and sometime surrealist, René Char.
The combination of ‘out-there’ display in the form of concentric discs to tell the time and very traditional textures and materials works well, particularly on this 40.5mm Nuit Fantastique Brume that matches an engine-turned dial with a beautifully severe X-Centric movement visible through the caseback.
Trilobe 40.5mm Nuit Fantastique Brume, €13,000, trilobe.com
Massena Lab has, temporarily, jumped the other way. Better known for savvy reinterpretations of classic designs at good prices (the sold-out Uni-Racer came in at just under $3,500), Massena Lab is a hybrid maker taking responsibility for its own production or outsourcing to collaborative partners just as the logic of each project dictates.
The latest, with independent maker Sylvain Pinaud who’s won both a Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève, in 2022, and a ‘Meilleur Ouvrier de France’, is an ambitious, CHF130,000 monopusher chronograph. Purely traditional in construction, it’s avant-garde in design and conception.
Chronograph Monopoussoir Sylvain Pinaud x Massena Lab, CHF130,000 (£116,775), massenalab.com
Greubel Forsey is edging the other way in terms of price, though that only means an ambition to introduce a simpler, sub-six-figure watch. That would be of only passing interest had the maker not had a radical deconstruction of its business that saw external shareholders bought out and new design talent bought in. The watches remain as technically superb as ever but now have a clearer, sharper aesthetic as in the Balancier Convexe S² with its monochromatic decor and condensed case (down to 41.5mm).
Greubel Forsey Balancier Convexe S², greubelforsey.com
Girard-Perregaux, which should really be competing with the likes of Audemars Piguet and Hublot, is nevertheless on an upward swing following its buyout from the Kering group along with Ulysse Nardin. Part of that newfound energy is derived from focusing on proven designs with unexpected twists, such as the Laureato Absolute 8Tech.
It’s an angular contemporary version of the Laureato but made from a novel carbon and titanium composite that has the lightness of a composite but a marbled surface texture like Damascus steel.
Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute 8Tech, girard-perregaux.com
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
James Gurney has written on watches for over 25 years, founding QP Magazine in 2003, the UK’s first home-grown watch title. In 2009, he initiated SalonQP, one of the first watch fairs to focus on the end-consumer, and is regarded as a leading horological voice contributing to news and magazine titles across the globe.
Roksanda creates a perfectly pink Christmas tree for Amsterdam’s Pulitzer hotel
Fashion designer Roksanda Ilinčić unveils a tulle-covered pink Christmas tree, its bold design recalling the colours and textures of her collections
By Jack Moss Published
Allday Goods’ nakiri knife is inspired by bao buns
This nakiri knife by Allday Goods features a bun-inspired handle made from London restaurant chain BAO’s plastic waste
By Tianna Williams Published
Ron Arad classics made by Dakar artisans on view in London
The work of Ron Arad is part of Opera Gallery’s ‘Untitled Rencontres’, on view until 7 January 2024
By Amah-Rose Mcknight Abrams Published