The watches that flopped during Watches and Wonders 2022, including Rolex, Patek Philippe and IWC
Watches and Wonders 2022 has drawn to a close with a huge range of exciting new watches releases and novelties, that'll surely have the wider watch community talking for some time! We at WatchGecko Magazine have also been joining in the hype and debating our favourites from this year's show, which you can find here in our best picks from Watches And Wonders 2022. But with so many great watches being released, we thought we should also include some of our least favourite watch releases. Our selection is purely based on our own individual tastes, from brands that left us just a little underwhelmed this year.
IWC “Top Gun” Chronograph Woodland and Lake Tahoe
The IWC “Top Gun” Chronograph Woodland and Lake Tahoe - Image credit IWC.
IWC remains the only big Swiss brand I have owned, subsequently disliked, sold and would not buy again. So just to be clear I am not starting on the best foot. The 2022 Woodland and Lake Tahoe Pilot Chronographs seem to typify the lack of new design innovation currently in IWC - these colour changes do not merit this level of fanfare. Recently Laco introduced a series of olive-drab Fliegers and they were simply released as a monthly update to the portfolio. They recognised that the new colours, beautiful they may be, were not that significant. It's a shame these rather average offerings are IWC's 2022 ace cards as they still hold an enviable place on the market.
Back in 2015, I was swung by this prominence when I bought an Aquatimer Galapagos IW3767-05. I had seen IWC advertise on the sails of Volvo Ocean Cup boats and the aero-fins of Mercedes F1. When they did a special Aquatimer honouring Jacques-Yves Cousteau it really was lovely, there was a story there. That innovation seems a distant memory, so personally, I cannot get excited about a Top Gun white chronograph or a dull monotone green variant. Still, with the Top Gun heritage and the imminent launch of Maverick, I am sure they will sell well. Not to me though.
Rolex 2022 Air-King
My first Rolex was an Air-King 14000. I sold it to upgrade to a non-date Submariner and today I regret that decision. I would give anything to have my Air-King back, not just another black dial 14000, but MY Air-King. I confess I struggled a bit when the fundamentally new Air-King ref: 116900 was released but I was pleased to see the model getting a push and attaining a place in the portfolio it deserved.
Come Watches And Wonders 2022 and the prospect of a new updated Air-King was very exciting, so I was left disappointed by the latest model which reinforced to me that Rolex are a little mediocre with new creations and wants us to get excited about things that already existed, or they have just corrected (like giving us back a 36mm Explorer). The 116900 had well-known design deficiencies such as minimal lume, a lone number 5, and an unprotected crown so to correct those, in my mind, is just getting the model back where it should have been. I concede the upgrade calibre from 3130 to the much improved 3230 is very welcome but for me, the addition of this technical internal gem is overshadowed by an overwhelming feeling that the 2022 release is actually just Rolex getting the watch right at last.
H. Moser & Cie Streamliner “Blacker Than Black”
The H. Moser & Cie Streamliner “Blacker Than Black” - Image credit H. Moser & Cie.
While I do like H. Moser & Cie's new Streamliner with its nod to the automotive designs of the 1920s and its contemporary and minimalistic elegance, I found the “Blacker Than Black" version took minimalism a step too far. As you can (or can't) see, the Streamliner is coated in 'Vantablack', which you probably remember from your Facebook Newsfeeds back in 2018/2019 as the blackest coating in existence, able to absorb over 99% of visible light. The visual effect of Vantablack was astounding at the time, and many jumped at the chance to use it, including BMW on their X6 SUV (RIP to anyone driving behind one at night) and artist Anish Kapoor - who controversially bought exclusive artistic rights to the blackest-black back in 2016.
That said, I found the Vantablack hype a little dated and done. It's not even the first watch by H. Moser & Cie to feature this coating when we consider their Venturer Vantablack Black Hands back in 2020. Only this time, they coated the whole watch in the stuff. While I found their Streamliner with its brushed cushion case and steel bracelet to be an excellent watch to showcase at Watches And Wonders 2022, the 'Blacker Than Black' version just wasn't as innovative or new as I hoped their headliner to be.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
Patek Philippe unveiled their latest addition to their Calatrava collection, a line of watches that have been renowned since 1932. Their newest addition, ref.5226G left me a little deflated despite its impressive specifications on paper (controversial, I know). The watch boasts a case in white gold 'Clous de Paris' guilloche on its circumference, gold-applied hands and a 26-330SC calibre with a date window. Yet the watch doesn't look as refined as I'd expect from Patek, or for its lofty £30k price point. Perhaps because I'm unsure of its purpose, or what occasion this watch is suited for. The Calatrava looks like a field watch despite the white gold case and the grainy textured dial seems too coarse to be considered refined. There's a balance of rugged charm and quintessential Patek luxury that I don't think quite hits the mark for me.
Hublot Square Bang Unico
Cards on the table: I'm not a massive Hublot fan in the first place. But this particular one really seems to want to solve a problem that doesn't exist. Who exactly needs a square Big Bang anyway? It shares many of the design cues from the more conventional Bang, with six screws at the front that exactly mirror those of its rounded counterparts. And you can get the Unico in various precious metals, including King Gold (consisting of 18-carat gold with 5% titanium, making for a richer colour - in every sense). There's also an all-black ceramic limited edition of 250 pieces, complete with a black rubber strap.
Aside from the fact that you can't easily read the time on it; this watch seems to me to be caught up in an identity crisis. Is it a Big Bang? A motorsport-inspired timepiece (thanks to the Heuer Monaco look and 'tyre tread' - which they call 'chocolate blocks ' - on the strap)? Or is it even a pseudo dive watch, because of its 100-metre water resistance (never easy to achieve with a square case) and that chunky rubber 'chocolatey' strap? Who knows. All I know is that I don't especially want one. Particularly at a price of more than £20K...
Patek Philippe 5374/300P
Patek Philippe used to be the epitome of understated elegance, a true paragon of the watchmaking world that stood out for its quiet authority and discreet craftsmanship. I say 'used to be' because, at Geneva, Patek came out with this thing. It felt a bit like spotting the Pope wearing Doc Martens boots at Midnight Mass. Kind of cool, but distinctly jarring. Of course, there's absolutely nothing to fault when it comes to the quality of the new, very blue, 5374/300P. Instead, it's the fact that this PP is embellished with no fewer than 228 diamonds on the platinum case plus 13 sapphires on the hour markers. The price is available only on application, so the message is clear: if you have to ask, you can't afford it. But money can't buy taste and Patek has, unfortunately, come out with a model that is unashamedly 'bling' and rather un-Patek.
By creating something so hyper-exclusive, they have ironically sold out: pandering instead to the inevitably vulgar rappers and playboys who are into this sort of stuff. Patek prides itself on how you never really own one of their watches: merely look after it for the next generation. But it's quite hard to imagine this particular model being one that your heirs would want to wear and treasure every day.