10 Technical Masterpieces From Watches & Wonders 2020

More than eye-pleasing inventions, timepieces that advance expectations of an industry

Formerly known as Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) and widely regarded as Switzerland’s most illustrious watch event, Watches & Wonders 2020 intended to open its doors this week to a select few. Instead, what was once an elegant in-person experience in Geneva for collectors, buyers and media has become online viewing rooms housing the latest milestone releases from Richemont‘s brands and select independent partners.

Technical and aesthetic developments will continue to deploy this week and although we typically assemble our highlights after holding the novelties, this year we’re relying upon our knowledge of the industry, its materials, each brand’s movements, and what we can glean from imagery to make our assessments. Even from afar, there’s so much to be excited about, as these 10 masterpieces make clear.

Hermès Cape Cod Martelée

An update to the iconic “a square within a rectangle” shape of Hermès‘ Cape Cod wristwatch, the exquisite Martelée incorporates the sophisticated jeweler’s skill of hammering. This hammering extends from the case into the (lacquer-covered) dial—crafting an unexpected patina-like effect across both. Though it’s primarily the aesthetics that benefit from technical development, this Quartz timepiece impresses none the less.

Cartier Privé Tank Asymétrique 9623 MC Skeleton Movement

The Tank Asymétrique made its debut in 1936. Today, as part of the Cartier Privé collection (wherein the luxury brand honors its legendary watches with limited variations), the mesmerizing silhouette returns as an 18K pink gold skeleton. Inside there’s a new manual-winding 9623 MC skeleton movement that’s been developed specifically for this asymmetrical stunner. Cartier will limit its production to 100 pieces (though there are two other Tank Asymétrique skeletons, also limited to 100, and three solid Tank Asymétrique models, too).

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication

Limited to eight pieces, Jaeger-LeCoultre‘s Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication marries two of the most technically challenging complications in horology: a celestial vault and a minute repeater. The latter, of course, is the complex mechanism that allows a mechanical watch to chime, which happens here through the brand’s patented “crystal gongs.” As for the celestial vault, it charts the Northern Hemisphere night sky, as seen from the 46th parallel. One final touch, an orbital flying tourbillon, affirms this to be the most compelling of all the releases.

Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H

With an uncommon 24-hour display, Montblanc’s 1858 Automatic 24H draws inspiration from a heritage timepiece by the historic Minerva manufacture. It relies on a single hand to tell hours and minutes—and also offers compass guidance laid atop the dial’s map of the Northern Hemisphere, with 24 meridians crafted from luminescent material. All of this is powered by a new automatic Calibre MB 24.20 movement, inside a 42mm bicolor case of stainless steel with a bezel made of a special bronze alloy.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton

Its name alone conveys the engineering barriers broken within Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton—where one extreme complication follows another. The ultra-thin 41.5mm pink gold automatic wristwatch derives perpetual calendar functionality from its 276-part openwork movement. It’s a wonder to look at, especially knowing that it includes a moon phase and 48-month counter with a leap year indication.

A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus

A. Lange & Söhne’s new Odysseus, visually defined by its 40.5mm white gold case and grey dial (with outsized day and date indicators in the brand’s classic double apertures), powers along on a 312-part Lange manufacture calibre L155.1 DATOMATIC movement. It’s only the second model in the brand’s sixth collection and as with its peer, it’s the meticulous attention to detail (including the fact that the movement is assembled twice) that defines it.

Panerai Luminor Marina Fibratech

Panerai debuts a new in-house developed material for the bezel of their 44mm Luminor Marina Fibratech. This material, Fibratech, is a composite of recyclable fibers—derived from molten volcanic rock and mineral additives. Paired with a titanium back and a sun-brushed Anthracite dial, the components come to life in an automatic watch limited to only 270 pieces.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Twofold

Modeling not one but three world premieres from Roger Dubuis, the Excalibur Twofold is a technological playground. First, and perhaps most obvious, is the (45mm’s worth of) unexpected case material: an in-house developed Mineral Composite Fiber (MCF). Second, the luminescent FKM rubber strap draws from a world-first technology named LumiSuperBiwiNova. And finally, Dubuis patented a process to illuminate every angle of the movement’s upper plate. Altogether, this means that this is the brightest release from the innovative brand.

IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide

With IWC Schaffhausen’s Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide, the brand incorporates both tide indication and a double moon phase (including both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere) through separate integrated sub-dial displays. This 44.6mm gold, self-winding watch draws power from an 82835 Calibre IWC-manufactured movement. The rotor of its Pellaton winding system can be observed through its exposed caseback—a nice touch for such a technically driven timepiece.

Piaget Altiplano AUC G0A45502

The world’s thinnest mechanical watch, Piaget’s Altiplano Ultimate Concept fuses a Cobalt allow case with the Manufacture Piaget 900P-UC ultra-thin, hand-wound movement. This unbelievably slender 41mm (in diameter) feat of engineering measures only 2mm thick. For all the technical magic, it also epitomizes industrial chic design.

Hero image courtesy of Piaget, all other images courtesy of respective brands