Rarely (if ever before) does one of our highlight stories rise to a whopping 18 selections. Quality over quantity underpins our editorial drive. And yet, after one week of appointments, online for hours on end, gazing at the novelties from some 35 brands in the Watches & Wonders 2021 trade show (a digital iteration of what was once the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie), many stood out for their aesthetic magnetism and technical mastery. Pinnacle among them was the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 (Quadriptyque), which we covered on its launch day. Below are 18 other timepieces, ranging from $2,100 to 150,000 CHF, that introduce their brand to the future.
IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL
Through eight years of technical progress, IWC’s engineering division, “IWC Experimental,” created the patented SPRIN-g PROTECT system that secures the movement in the IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL ($87,000) against g-force. This 44mm features a 32111 Calibre IWC-manufactured automatic, self-winding movement within a proprietary Ceratanium case. It’s a pilot’s watch that can handle stress of air pressure at top speeds.
Emblematic of the French luxury maison’s commitment to watchmaking, the Hermès H08 ($5,500 to $8,900) was created entirely in-house, from the contemporary design—by creative director Véronique Nichanian, artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas, and artistic director of watches Philippe Delhotal—to their manufacture H1837 automatic movement. Measuring 39 by 39mm, the case comes in titanium, black DLC coated titanium or graphene.
Montblanc 1858 Split-Second Chronograph Limited-Edition 18
Though Montblanc announced five new Minerva manufacture-inspired timepieces within their three core collections—the 1858, Heritage and Star Legacy—during the trade show, it was the “lime gold” Montblanc 1858 Split-Second Chronograph Limited-Edition 18 ($50,000) from a few days before that has us mesmerized most. Its unique 18K gold alloy draws its color from a portion of silver and iron, which plays off contrasting green accents, as well as the gold sunray dial. The 44mm model, limited to a release of 18 watches, nods to a Minerva historical military chronograph from the 1930s and inside beats a manual Montblanc Manufacture Calibre MB M16.31 movement.
Cartier Tank Must SolarBeat
With the Cartier Tank Must Solarbeat ($2,480 to $2,610), one of the most acclaimed wristwatches gets a sun-powered heartbeat. This is a first-ever for the maison, enacted for environmental reasons, and it will deliver a reported 16 years of run time before the watch needs servicing. This stainless steel Tank model comes in two sizes: 33 by 25.5mm and 29.5 by 22mm. Its accompanying strap is produced from non-animal leather, too. No elegance is lost but its intention is refreshing.
Panerai Submersible eLAB-ID
Crafted from 98.6% “recycled-based materials,” Panerai Submersible eLAB-ID ($61,700) is a luxury watch-world breakthrough. A lightweight, aerospace-grade, recycled titanium alloy (aptly named EcoTitanium) composes the case, dial and movement bridges. The gold, silicon, sapphire crystal and even the Super-Luminova is recycled, too. Right now, however, the 44mm watch—with an automatic P.900e caliber movement—that they debuted is a concept, but Panerai plans to launch a 30-piece limited edition run in 2022.
Oris Divers Sixty-Five “Cotton Candy”
Unexpected colors continue to feel refreshing in the luxury watch world and Oris does not disappoint with their Divers Sixty-Five “Cotton Candy” collection ($2,450 to $2,750) out this June. From the 38mm bronze case and bracelet to the pastel dials in sky blue, light pink and wild green colorways, the combination softly glows. Further, all that brass will develop a patina over time. Inside, there’s also an Oris Caliber 733 automatic movement.
Baume & Mercier Riviera Collection
A welcome renewal, the fifth-generation Baume & Mercier Riviera collection ($2,100 to $3,550) embraces the dodecagonal design cues of their 1973 icon. The stainless steel collection releases in three sizes: 36mm “Swiss Made” quartz and “Swiss Made” self-winding versions, the “Swiss Made” self-winding 42mm Riviera and the 43mm in-house BAUMATIC caliber iteration.
Breitling Premier Heritage B09 Chronograph
From a purely aesthetic position, pairing a stainless steel case with a pistachio green dial is an absolutely charming and unexpected combination for the Breitling Premier Heritage B09 Chronograph ($8,400). It also aligns with the need for legibility on this impressive, technical chronograph, which features a two-register dial layout encircled with a tachymeter scale. Inside the 40mm case, the manually wound Breitling Manufacture Caliber B09 keeps the functions powered.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques Platinum American 1921
The Vacheron Constantin Historiques Platinum American 1921 ($51,000) is one of three new watches released to celebrate the centenary of its namesake. This limited edition 40mm watch (which is also a part of Vacheron Constantin’s Collection Excellence Platine) has been crafted with an entirely platinum case and a sandblasted platinum dial set, with white-gold Arabic numerals. It’s limited to 100 pieces, but the brand is also releasing two non-limited production versions in white gold (at 36.5mm and 40mm). Inside of all three watches, which each bear the distinct square case and angled dial, one finds Vacheron Constantin’s hand-wound calibre 4400 AS movement.
A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar
With a solid rose gold dial shining forth from a 41.9mm white gold case, the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar (€109,000) clearly conveys a bevy of exemplary features—a perpetual calendar function and moon phase, included. Limited to 150 pieces, it’s a brand new addition to the brand’s roster of horological masterpieces.
Patek Philippe Calatrava “Clous De Paris”
From an overall subtle elegance to the impeccable finishing evidenced through its hobnail bezel, the two-watch Patek Philippe Calatrava “Clous De Paris” collection ($29,570) is an ideal vessel for the brand’s new 30-255 PS hand-wound movement. As one would expect, Patek promises the utmost precision here and the watch carries the Patek Philippe Seal certification. In rose or white gold, with contrasting silver-grained or gray-black vertical finished dials, the case measures 39mm.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando
Limited to 160 pieces, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando ($18,100) is the third collaboration between the innovative watch and jewelry house and the Japanese architect. Its serene, blue lacquered dial, with its own little yellow gold crescent moon, offers a night’s sky of time-telling tools within a 40mm sandblasted black ceramic case. The sapphire caseback is also engraved with Ando’s signature, beneath which the BVL 138 automatic movement is visible.
H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Tourbillon Concept Tiger’s Eye
A new take on independent watchmaker H. Moser & Cie.’s ultra-minimalistic “concept” design, the Endeavour Tourbillon Concept Tiger’s Eye ($75,900) does more than introduce a captivating new stone dial (here showing the “falcon’s eye” iteration). The 40mm white gold piece, powered by an HMC 804 automatic movement, showcases a double hairspring flying tourbillon that completes rotation once per minute. It’s limited to 50 pieces.
Ressence Type 2N Night Blue
Quite often it feels like a disservice to Ressence to include them in our general watch highlights because their innovation isn’t a new material or colorway; the system behind their wristwatches is fundamentally different than the others listed here (and one we’ve explored quite a bit since they launched in 2013). But the new 45mm titanium Ressence Type 2N Night Blue (€38,750), powered by their ROCS 2 module (driven by the minute axle of a customized ETA 2892/A base), is a highlight—and the latest watch to showcase their unique e-Crown technology.
Zenith DEFY El Primero 21 Felipe Pantone
Another visual delight, the Zenith DEFY El Primero 21 Felipe Pantone ($19,100) finds the Swiss watchmaker collaborating with a contemporary artist for the first time. Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone uses the DEFY 21 as a canvas, bringing exclamations of color to unexpected elements. Limited to 100 pieces (which sold out), the 44mm ceramic watch, with an open-work dial, draws power from Zenith’s iconic El Primero automatic movement. This was a pre-show announcement and Zenith did not fail to impress there either.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon
The debut piece in their multi-year partnership with Marvel, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon (150,000 CHF) brings the beloved superhero to life in spectacular form. From the 42mm sandblasted titanium case (with black ceramic accents) to the hand-painted 3D rendition of the Black Panther and the Calibre 296 automatic movement, the wristwatch meticulously matches Audemars Piguet engineering and design clout with Marvel’s energy. It will be limited to 250 pieces.
Ulysse Nardin UFO Table Clock
To say that the Ulysse Nardin UFO Table Clock ($41,100) was designed to prevent itself from being knocked over is a disservice to how fun, funky and functional the machine is. This manually wound clock, with a one-year power reserve, is crafted from aluminum and blown glass. A collaboration with the celebrated clockmaker Maison L’Epée, and limited to 75 pieces, the UFO displays the time on three trapezoidal dials (each one dedicated to a different time zone). It’s a celebration of the brand’s 175-year history and a worthy one at that.
Hero image courtesy of Ulysse Nardin