The Watches & Wonders Exit Survey

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Hast wearing the new Laurent Ferrier. “Elegance personified at the very peak of the haute horological world” he says.

Hast wearing the new Laurent Ferrier. “Elegance personified at the very peak of the haute horological world,” he says.
A half-dozen watch experts weigh in on their favorite pieces, the best thing to eat at the show, and the wildest parties. 

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Last week, we stuffed ourselves to the gills with watches at the world’s biggest tradeshow, Watches & Wonders. I was in attendance, and I wrote all about it. Now, it’s time to sit back, digest, and maybe even enjoy a thimble of chartreuse. I wrangled six Watch Illuminati members who were also on the ground in Geneva to help me sift through everything that went down. This is the Watches & Wonders exit survey. 

What was your favorite watch from W&W? 

Jessica Owens, founder of Daily Grail: The diamond pave Baignoire bangle from Cartier. 

Jason Gong, founder of Complecto: The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Microrotor full platinum. It combines understated elegance and ultra luxury in a beautiful, pure design. This is THE stealth wealth watch par excellence. 

Andrew McUtchen, founder of Time+Tide and one of the hosts of the YouTube show About Effing Time: My favorite watch was the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duoface Chronograph. It dramatically ups the game for what is possible from a watch that has two faces. 

Where most Duoface models offer two different dial colors, dial layouts, and finishings, this clever unit has a simple time-only function on one face, and a skeletonized chronograph on the other. To put this in pop cultural terms, a black and white Duoface Reverso is like Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson—a simple, and effective binary of good and evil, light and dark. This model? More like Christian Bale and Heath Ledger. A feast of nuances; a vulgar display of intelligence on one side versus a brooding, handsome black-tie simplicity on the other. 

Brynn Wallner, founder of Dimepiece: The mini yellow gold Cartier Baignoire on a bangle. 

Robert-Jan Broer, founder of Fratello Magazine: My favorite watch from the W&W was the Rolex GMT-Master II in full gold on a Jubilee bracelet. Although some people complain about the gray part of the ceramic bezel, I actually like it a lot. The gold Jubilee bracelet gives a bit of a vintage vibe to the GMT-Master as well.

Justin Hast, photographer and editor of The Watch Annual: I’ve got one sports and one dress for you—quite possibly the ultimate two-watch collection from Watches and Wonders 2023! Sports wise: the IWC Ingenieur. Over the years IWC has attempted to refresh and improve on the ‘70s Genta design with limited success. But this year IWC nailed it. At 40mm, it’s at most people’s sweet spot, size-wise, and a full ground-up overhaul of the case and bracelet has seen IWC improve on an icon (my pick from the four executions is the titanium!). 

My favorite dress watch was the drop-dead gorgeous Chopard L.U.C 1860 with a salmon dial. The guilloché dial is a work of art and at 36.5mm, the proportions have to be celebrated. Designing a standout time-only dress watch is one of the greatest challenges in all of watchmaking. Many have tried and few have succeeded. The distinct markers and layout of the L.U.C 1860 family absolutely nail it! And don’t take my word for it—just look at the secondary market prices! 

Which was the most impressive watch from W&W?

Gong: The Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE blew my mind—its design is as beautiful and nuanced as it is a technical marvel. 

Gong wearing the Freak. 

Wallner: The Piaget cuff watches. I’m thrilled to see Piaget leaning into their heritage, paying homage to a time when Piaget was the IT brand for the jetsetting socialites of the New York scene. Piaget has so much to play with in the archives, so I’m looking forward to what their 150th anniversary will bring next year. Let’s just hope they don’t reissue the original Piaget Polo in rose gold versus yellow.  

Hast: It has be the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph. To think Lange arrived at the show with one watch—that it’s only producing 100 of—says everything you need to know about its conviction of who it is and who it serves. The first complication in the sports model family from the Glashutte-based manufacturer, it is exceptional. To think they started making the movement prior to the 2019 launch of the Odysessus is mindblowing. It isn’t a traditional chrono with sub dials, either: the red seconds hand is your chronograph seconds hand, but instead of there being a minutes register like you’d find on basically every other chronograph, the minutes are counted from a central lozenge-tipped hand. Central minute hand counters are not new, but not common. This is proper watchmaking: over-the-top in its obsessiveness but quiet in its Germanic sensibility. 

Owens: I think the 744-component Dual Moon Grand Complication from Vacheron Constantin was truly the star of the show and reminded everyone that VC will always remain one of the Big 3. 

McUtchen: The 1908 model from Rolex is a ballsy move, as its introduction effectively raises the white flag for the failing Cellini line. It’s rare for Rolex to admit defeat, but with apologies to Barack [Obama]—who was the only man on the planet repping the watch—it was time. And it’s an impressive goose step. In the 1908, Rolex engineered a more worthy competitor to the still-dominant Patek Philippe Calatrava. 

Broer: I think most impressive to me was the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph. How the chronograph reset mechanism works, with the chronograph seconds hand traveling back the same distance it did to get there, is just a great visual show. The integrated chronograph pushers that are also used to set the day and the date are simply clever.

Favorite watch from the Carré des Horlogers section, where the smaller brands are typically located?

Broer: The Grönefeld 1941 Grönograaf, although not new, didn’t fail to impress me. But also the new Ressence Type 1 in blue and the Louis Moinet Time To Race are simply stunning. The Carré des Horlogers is the room with the most laidback atmosphere, and it’s all just about watchmaking, and less about marketing or Excel Sheets.

Owens: The red gold Ever-Green Micro-Rotor from Laurent Ferrier in its classic pebble variation. 

Hast: I was torn between two. A traditional Laurent Ferrier and modernist Ressence. The Laurent Ferrier is based around the “Galet Case” and the eye for detail and subtle design touches from LF are second to none. Having spent time at Patek and on the Le Mans race track, Mr. Ferrier is the man you would want at the helm of this Indy. For 2023 the brand “simply” added a vertical satin brush green dial to a red gold case in the classic micro rotor family. My God, what a combo. Elegance personified at the very peak of the haute horological world. 

The all-gold Rolex GMT was Broer’s favorite piece from W&W. 

The Ressence was launched a week before the show officially kicked off but the Type 8 from Ressence comes in a beautiful sage green dial. The Type 8 is everything you already know and love from the Belgium challenger brand with nothing you won’t. Stripped back to the brand’s essence, it isn’t filled with oil or packed with eCrown technology. It’s just a svelte 42.9mm titanium case that is just 11mm thick and weighs in at only 42 grams. Incredible design innovation meets wearability. 

McUtchen: Czapek & Cię has had a proper run on lately, to the extent where they’ve had to close their book for orders to catch up on customer demand. The book opens again this month and you imagine there’ll be plenty of people lining up for what is the ultimate version of the wildly popular Antarctique model. This time, it’s named the “Revelation” for its bold open working, revealing all its innards of wheels, springs and gears. 

Gong: The Angelus Chronodate Gold Black was an absolute revelation. The watch is highly technical while channeling legacy Angelus chronograph design. It’s sublime. 

Which brand won W&W? 

Gong: Rolex until further notice. They took bigger swings this year than anyone could have imagined: open casebacks, a new dress watch, and those whimsical new dials on the DayDate and Oyster Perpetual, which were destined to break the internet.

Owens: I truly believe Cartier hit the nail on the head. Each novelty, and mind you, there were many, had elements of the brand’s ethos yet emphasized its modernity. 

Wallner: Rolex. People couldn’t shut up about their Jigsaw watch! Even regular people were talking about it, transcending the watch media circle jerk.

Hast: It was a dead heat between Cartier and IWC. Cartier because it just consistently produces a boggling number of exquisite jewelry watches with seemingly endless creativity. And IWC because nobody created a world around its launches quite like the Schaffhausen-based maker. The whole ‘70s vibe of the stand and marketing DNA was sublime.

Broer: In the end, Rolex is having a very good year in terms of new watches. They released a big variety of new watches with some pretty good ones. I think Rolex haven’t done anything like [their new collection] for many years. I was also impressed with Parmigiani. They are now enjoying the well-deserved success with their Tonda PF collection. Simply every piece is impressive.

McUtchen: Tudor won Watches & Wonders in 2023 not by wowing people with entirely new collections or models, but by listening to their customers and making just-so adjustments that altogether make a world of difference to the way their watches actually wear. 

Brynn Wallner, aka Dimepiece, with her favorite watch: Cartier’s new mini Baignoire. 

For example, the hugely popular Black Bay 41. Practically all watch lovers have had at least one at some point, myself included. But just as many have let them go for their (until now) unrefined case. It had slab sides that made it a bulky wear in comparison to a Rolex Oyster case, or Omega’s Seamaster 300. That complaint has been rectified with a more shapely, slimmer-looking case and a new five-link (Jubilee in any other language!) bracelet to match. As usual, their pricing remains pitch-perfect for the value proposition.  

What did you think of the new Jigsaw Rolex?

Owens: I loved it. I know who the customer is, I instantly understood why they made it, and quite honestly, Rolex can do whatever—they know there will always be a buyer. I appreciate them not taking themselves too seriously. They have earned that right. 

Wallner: It’s definitely doing the most. I would have loved to see the emoji “date” and the affirmation “day” without the clutter of the jigsaw dial. But it’s exciting to see Rolex letting their hair down with this release—not just exciting, but shocking! Rolex tends to set the tone for the industry at large, so we can hopefully anticipate more watch brands following suit and getting playful in the design room.

Broer: The jigsaw Rolex is just weird to me. I don’t like it as a watch, I don’t like it as a joke. Not sure what they had in mind when doing this watch. Granted, people talked about it, but they’ll talk about Rolex anyway. It almost feels like they made this watch to see how far they can go and how far [collectors] are willing to go when it comes to the craziness for their brand.

Gong: I think it shows that Rolex knows how not to take itself too seriously. People love to hate Rolex, but everyone wants one. I expect the Jigsaw DayDate to be a very hard watch to come by for a very long time. 

McUtchen: It’s truly awful. A bewildering mashup of three quite terrible ideas. Idea 1. Let’s put feel-good platitudes in the “Day” aperture. All that’s missing is #blessed. Idea 2. Emojis in the date window. Make them as random as possible. *Shrug emoji* Idea 3. It’s very busy, perhaps we should simplify things with a scatter of puzzle pieces in a chaotic pattern? Voila

Despite the profusion of words on the watch, they fail me now. If I were to choose one, though, it would be: Why?

Hast: Not for me. But I loved watching the fallout! Good on em’, the old adage that Rolex is a bit boring may start to slide if they keep it up for 2024! 

Gong wearing his favorite piece from the show, the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Microrotor in platinum. 

Who threw the best party or hang? 

Broer: Tudor, without a doubt. They had an amazing show, with the Tudor Pro Cycling Team doing sprints and little competitions in the hall where the party was. And live music, of course.

Owens: Hands down the best party was Revolution’s fondue party, there could be a coffee table book made of the photos from that night alone. The best hang was with Karl and Caroline Scheufele at their restaurant, Chez Bacchus, being serenaded with “Pretty Woman” and drinking incredible wine. Two nights that made the chaos of the show more than worth it. 

McUtchen: You can bet on Hublot for the best hang, and they didn’t disappoint this year. In a small farm-like chalet in the hills above Geneva, they hosted what felt like a big afterparty. There was Grey Goose on the tables in the place of sparkling water, and a superb vocalist doing the most elevated form of karaoke with a DJ I have ever seen. 

Wallner: The intimate Vacheron Constantin dinner at Auberge d’Onex. Beautifully curated, tight guestlist. And they let us order whatever we wanted off the menu. The conversation was so refreshing after a long week of watch talk. At one point I was laughing so hard that my stomach hurt. 

Gong: All work and no play for Complecto. We were out there husting! But the best cocktails of W&W were definitely at the Hublot lounge. Magnifique!

Hast: No doubt the Vacheron Constantin dinner at its manufacturing HQ outside Geneva, designed and built by Bernard Tschumi Architects (2001-2005). It was an international press event and we had the opportunity to eat in the entrance of the building under candle light. It is a distinctly modern building and possibly one of the most beautiful In the watchmaking world (the concept of a curved metal envelope acting as a common denominator for both manufacturing and management). 

What was the best thing you ate at the Palexpo, where W&W is held?

McUtchen: Any hardened watch journalist with a few rodeos under their belt knows that the beef carpaccio at Watches & Wonders is often the highlight of the fair, watches included. This year, it was not served. We want answers.  

Hast: The Poke bowl!! But after 1:30, you were guaranteed the damn thing would have run out! 

Wallner: The really salty pretzels followed by a green apple at the A. Lange & Söhne “booth.” That’s all I ate, actually. 

Broer: If you’re able to get a table for lunch (not easy this year), it was definitely the poké bowl they served. I didn’t gain much weight during this Watches & Wonders, probably due to the semi-healthy food I had at the Palexpo.

Gong: The catering was off the chain but my favorite dish was a deconstructed lemon meringue pie. I ate it three days in a row.

Owens: I didn’t eat at Palexpo, I preferred to live off Coke Zeros so I could indulge in the multiple course dinners that ensued in the evenings. 

Did you buy anything? If so, what? 

Wallner: Hell no. Do you know how much watch journalists make? Don’t let the business-class airfare on press trips fool you. 

Andrew McUtchen and the new Vacheron Constantin Overseas

Hast: I’m a sucker for a stone dial Piaget. A collector had commissioned a series of the Andy-Warhol inspired watch from Piaget with a series of stone dials. Without going into the details, I’m currently talking to the London boutique about a malachite dial execution…or more accurately, establishing what I can sell to fund one! Nothing is off limits!

McUtchen: I bought a Bausele Sydney Diver with gilt dial, matt black DLC case, and beige elastic MN-style strap for my business partner Marcus. He was the leader of our videography team and a total hardworking badass who didn’t stop till we wrapped close to 100 videos for both Time+Tide and our side hustle About Effing Time. He deserved it. 

Broer: Well, I like the GMT-Master in full gold best, but it’s as unobtainable for me as for anyone else, I am afraid. The same goes for the new Explorer 40, which would be my second-favorite Rolex this year. But all in all, I will just wait to see what the other brands will release this year—those who weren’t participating in the Watches & Wonders show. I will make up my mind after summer.

Gong: I didn’t buy anything while I was there, but I did add a few pieces to my wish list. Chief among them being the Alpina Alpiner Extreme Regulator Automatic.

Owens: I tried to buy my soul back…? [Ed note: Sorry, that’s the one thing you can’t get at the Palexpo.]

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