Anyone who has attended Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie – this year replaced by an online Watches & Wonders – will be familiar with the sight of brands descending on Geneva’s lakefront hotels to take advantage of fair-goers presence in the city. The 16 brands exhibiting at Geneva Watch Days from August 26th to 29th chose a similar format – a scaled-down, hotel-based event – for visitors wanting some hands-on time with the year’s new releases. As the only physical “show and tell” amidst a multitude of online presentations, the event was nothing if not singular.
Sport-luxe remains one of the strongest trends for watch buyers right now, and the brands at Geneva Watch Days obliged with products geared towards a real-life action man. Whether he’s in training for the next Red Bull Rampage, the wildest freeride mountain bike competition there is, or clutching a can and watching from the sidelines doesn’t matter, as long as he looks the part – which includes having the right watch. Breitling has chosen its side of the fence: the Endurance Pro chronograph is ready for action with its thermo-compensated SuperQuartz™ movement inside a 44mm case in Breitlight®, an ultralight proprietary polymer. Only tool watches in the Professional range are fitted with SuperQuartz™ movements, which Breitling says are ten times more accurate than conventional quartz calibres. Introduced inj2016, Breitlight® is a non-magnetic material that is thermally stable, hypoallergenic and 3.3 times lighter than titanium. This new Endurance Pro, which is water-resistant to 100 metres, comes in five colour versions for the flange and the strap.
The chrono version of the Bulgari Aluminium aside, the majority of watches on show weren’t so race-ready, targeting the armchair athlete instead. The offering from H. Moser & Cie. includes a less complex version of its Streamliner Flyback Chronograph, a chrono with central hands, developed by Agenhor for Moser, that launched to great acclaim late last year. Its successor, the Streamliner Centre Seconds, is time-only, again cased in steel with an integrated bracelet that curves around the wrist. Its Matrix Green dial introduces a new colour for the brand. Men on the go are also in the sights of the Gérald Genta Arena Bi-Retro Sport. Last year, for the fiftieth anniversary of the Genta brand, acquired by Bulgari in 2000, the Italian firm rolled out a commemorative watch in platinum that features jumping hours alongside retrograde minutes and a retrograde date. Inspired by a 1969 design, it returns with a black anthracite dial and a brushed titanium case with a 100-metre depth rating. According to Bulgari, this new watch marks the return of the Gérald Genta brand, with the promise of “more to come”.
Over at Ulysse Nardin, the sculptural forms of the Blast are front and centre. Modelled along the lines of stealth aircraft, it describes itself as “an avatar of its time; a technological wonder made with rock-hard, masculine lines.” The Blast is a worthy heir to Ulysse Nardin’s Executive line, whose transparency it accentuates with the X-shape that reaches across the automatic movement, outfitted with a silicon tourbillon that beats at 2.5 Hz. Winding is by a micro-rotor, mounted on the barrel, that provides three days of power reserve. A similarly architectural feel presides over the Free Bridge by Girard-Perregaux, the latest riff on the brand’s now famous “three bridges” design that goes back a century and a half, to 1867. One of the last iterations, in 2017, took the form of the Neo-Bridges whose construction shows off not a tourbillon but the balance wheel. For the Free Bridge, the brand has opted to conserve just one bridge and to position the rotor on the back of the GP01800 calibre (which uses silicon for the escapement and balance). The result is a beautifully symmetrical composition of barrel and balance which gain in character as the sole “features” on the dial.
Contrasting with this techno-sleek approach are new releases aimed more squarely at aesthetes and collectors. Ferdinand Berthoud gave a foretaste of this particular current with the Chronomètre FB 2RE, in honour of the marine chronometers made by the brand’s namesake in the eighteenth century. Bovet 1822 follows on with the Virtuoso VIII Chapter Two, which combines a flying tourbillon, a large date and a power-reserve indicator in an original configuration – all within the brand’s sloping “writing desk” case with the crown at 12 o’clock. As is customary at Bovet, finishing is on a par with this perfectly orchestrated composition. In a distinctly more contemporary register, Louis Moinet’s Space Revolution introduces itself as “the first space object from Louis Moinet”. Its flying satellite double tourbillon is a world-first. This is how the brand describes it: “Two spaceships battle it out beneath a sapphire crystal dome, facing off eighteen times an hour: the upper spacecraft completes a clockwise rotation every five minutes, whilst the lower vessel turns in the opposite direction, completing a counter-clockwise revolution every ten minutes. Meanwhile, two constantly revolving space stations stage a powerful defence against the effects of gravity.” On the subject of world-firsts, De Bethune’s futuristic DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon is fitted with the lightest tourbillon cage ever, at 0.18 grams. As well as being a featherweight, this is also a high-beat tourbillon making rapid rotations for maximum effectiveness.