So we’ve been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt (actually, the T-shirt was gifted, so we didn’t even have to buy it). But when all is said and done, which were the best watches at Watches and Wonders – and which were the worst? We’ve all got an opinion, and here’s mine. Other views may differ….(Richard's follow)
I’ve always had a huge soft spot for TAG Heuer, and the releases this year didn’t disappoint. It’s perhaps unusual for the best view of a watch to come from the side, but seeing the latest Carrera side-on shows you exactly how it got its ‘glassbox’ nickname. That prominent domed sapphire crystal lends a wonderful 3D effect and the whole package (available in black and blue; both good but the black just edges it) screams racing heritage – especially on the perforated ‘rally’ strap. At more than $6000 the Carrera is no longer the absolute bargain that it once was, but this all reflects the desire to move the name upmarket – as also shown by the fact that TAG Heuer has decided to put a tourbillon into a Carrera for the first time this year. I’m wondering if this was entirely necessary, when the basic model is so appealing anyway? The Carrera has just cemented its reputation as the archetypal driving watch. Who needs a tourbillon to drive a car?
TAG Heuer Carrera 2023 - Credit TAG Heuer W&W Press Pack
The ‘zenith’ is the peak of a trajectory, so it’s entirely understandable that the eponymous brand has come out with a stunning pilot’s watch that really rekindles the romantic age of travel. Aviation is at the very heart of everything that Zenith does, as a Zenith watch was on the wrist of Louis Bleriot when he flew his first famous cross-channel voyage. The latest pilot watch from Zenith successfully blends ancient and modern, with beautiful aviation cues everywhere: from the corrugated finish that evokes early fuselages to the date display inspired by airline departure boards. Those ancient clattering boards are also reminiscent of the new ‘big date’ watch from Langhe & Sohne, which I also loved. But it’s the Zenith that’s the most successful execution of this concept, especially in black ceramic 42.55mm Big Date Flyback guise. As soon as I saw it I wanted one – but the bad news is that the dream only comes true at around $14,000. Never mind: it’s probably worth selling a kidney for.
Zenith Pilot - Credit Zenith's W&W Press Pack
IWC had what was probably the most funky stand of the whole show, complete with Kraftwerk soundtrack and a retro-futuristic Mercedes C111 car from the 1970s. Fitting, as their big release was the Ingenieur, an unashamedly retro (yet surprisingly modern) watch that builds on the iconic design pioneered by the legendary Gerald Genta in 1976. The watch has been thoroughly reimagined and reinvented for the modern age (as has the price tag, now in excess of $11,0000). But what a cohesive, rock solid design it is – packed with the latest IWC watchmaking technology. As well as the steel models, there’s a titanium release, which is a real show-stopper. At 40mm it’s the perfect size, with the checkerboard dial really making it stand out. Occasionally you see a watch that simply works at every level. This is one of them.
IWC Ingenieur - Credit IWC's W&W Press Pack
Rolf Studer, the genial CEO of Oris, says that his mission is to create watches that “make people smile”. And when he revealed a bright green watch emblazoned with an image of one of my childhood heroes, I couldn’t help it: I started grinning from ear to ear. How often does that happen? A marketing mission statement that turns out to be absolutely true within seconds of it being spoken? I’ve been a long-time fan of the ProPilot but now it takes on an extra dimension thanks to the exact pantone of Kermit green, which lights up the dial. And it also gives you another reason to celebrate the first day of the month, as this has become ‘Kermit day’ – where the date is replaced by the cheeky grinning image of your favourite frog. A reminder, says Rolf, to be happy and celebrate the moment. This is a genuine feel-good watch, which is why I’m including it as an extra bonus in my top three. What price does happiness come at? Around $4800, it turns out. Oris also produced the best film of the show, featuring Rolf interviewing Kermit. Proof that the watch world is often not as staid as it sometimes seems.
Oris ProPilot Kermit - Credit Oris' W&W Press Pack
Just one word: why? This almost looks like a Swatch, but in the end I don’t want to be rude about Swatch because I like them. The Day Date is a beautiful piece of watch architecture, but it’s now been desecrated by a hideous pastiche of interlocking colours, with meaningless slogans where the day should be such as “Eternity”, “Gratitude”, “Hope” and so on. Yes, I guess Rolex should be applauded for daring to do something different and appealing to a younger audience. But that’s just not me.
Rolex Day-Date "Jigsaw" - Credit Rolex W&W Press Pack
Words cannot begin to describe how repellent this watch is, in every way. I dislike it at a visceral level; starting from its calling card of being the most expensive watch in Geneva (priced at $20 million) and finishing with the fact that there’s so much bling on it that you can barely tell the time. Yes, it's a technical tour de force, but also such a monument to needlessly ostentatious consumerism that it’s impossible to love.
Jacob & Co Billionaire Timeless Treasure - Credit Jacob & Co Press Pack
I feel it’s unfair to include such an iconic brand on this list, but there’s something I really can’t stand about watches as jewellery. For me, these two things are like oil and water: they just don’t mix. More to the point, I really don't understand why anyone would bypass all the ‘real’ Reversos on offer from JLC – which are stunning works of art – and settle for a lesser watch dangling on the end of a necklace instead? And how do you even tell the time with it, without craning your neck or looking in a mirror?
JLC Reverso Necklace - Credit JLC from W&W Press Pack
Although initially hesitant to jump on the back of Anthony's fine writing we mutually agreed that my best and worst of the show is probably appropriate here rather than have its own page. There is only one cross over between us!
For once lack of innovation from a modern watch brand is a good thing. Tudor have been the stand out brand of the show for me, not just because of their contemporary designs but principally due to the size of one of their watches. The 37mm Black Bay 54 is guaranteed to be a hit for both male and female buyers (no mean feat) yet it still manages to pull off the look of a vintage Submariner from a bygone era. I have been hovering around the metaphoric "buy" button on the Tudor website for weeks and now it has become very hard to think of reasons not to acquire one.
Tudor Black Bay 54 - Credit Tudor W&W Press Pack
I want to shake Rolex! I find them so frustrating. One day I still see the brand I grew to love over three models and then I crash down realising they are more interested in what celeb is wearing their watch than trying to persuade me to buy another. I came into W&W 23 with a pre-ordained position to dislike the brand and then they throw me by producing a Titanium Yachmaster. Quite possibly my watch of the show. The massive Deep Sea aside, we have we yearned for a new serious tool watch from Rolex for years and titanium has just been a dream. This new Yachtmaster is an absolute gem. Curse you Rolex!
Rolex Yachtmaster - Credit Rolex W&W Press Pack
TAG is a brand we all love in the office yet seldom buy. I only know one person who owns one, which is odd given my circle of friends. Yet so many of us began our collections with a 1990s TAG. The Aquaracer is often seen as an entry level luxury watch which is in no way disparaging. It's a great watch for the price but the new 2023 releases really elevate the range and bring it beyond the sum of its parts. The colours, finishes and simple attention to detail are so prevalent in the latest Aquaracers that you can see serious evolution. Nice job TAG.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer 200 - Credit TAG W&W Press Pack
There will be a noticeable theme with my Lowlights. Mainly centred around the question of "why?" And the answer "why not" is insufficient. I look at my three Lowlights and I genuinely ask myself what is the purpose of this creation and what do the manufacturers hope to achieve. Sadly nothing typifies this personal view more than the new 40mm Explorer. 36mm, 39mm, back to 36mm - make your mind up Rolex. Increase to 40mm - is that really the best your world class design bureau can muster? I totally get that this is to all intents and purposes a new Explorer but when you have to keep so rigidly to a design to maintain the lore, why bother with constant tweaks?
Rolex Explorer 40- Credit Rolex W&W Press Pack
Well this is one my friend and colleague Anthony and I have in common. He picked jigsaw and I picked bubbles....and I echo his words from earlier in the piece. I have no doubt they will appeal to someone and they will be instantly recognisable but the chances of any of my colleagues or friends buying one will be zero. So you have to wonder who these are aimed at. Oh yes, I think I answered my own question in the Yachtmaster paragraph above.
Rolex Oyster - Credit Rolex W&W Press Pack
In the watch industry we recognise how important it is to create a DNA and by and large stick to that. However I would argue that you can create a DNA, perhaps in the way IWC or Breitling has, without all your watches looking pretty much identical. Yes of course there is the marketing plus of people instantly clocking a Panerei on your wrist but I wish the brand would push the envelope a little further. Its all just very boring and if you are not a fan of the "generic" design (which I am not), the upshot is you will never buy one.
Panerai Radiomir Otto Giorni - Credit Panerei W&W Press Pack
Has anyone else noticed the abundance of pastel blue, subtly textured dials of late? These ice-inspired displays are everywhere and feel well suited to frosty winter mornings and the subsequent festive season. Pastel coloured dials...
Two great names and yet another collaboration. Longines and Hodinkee have joined forces to launch the LONGINES SPIRIT ZULU TIM. This is a 500-piece limited edition made entirely of Grade 5 titanium alloy with high...