Watches and Wonders 2023: The Allure of Soft Colors

Eight watches with quietly soothing ornamentation

To attend an esteemed timepiece extravaganza like Watches and Wonders in Geneva is to have an opportunity to become enmeshed in the world of fine watchmaking, to study the industry’s movements and to draw intriguing connections—between disparate brands—that represent something bigger (and perhaps even societal). For 2023’s milestone iteration, exhibitors debuted show-stopping chronographs, unveiled imaginative and playful wristwatches and embraced the allure of soft color beyond the standard black, blue, steel or gold. Salmon dials were everywhere on site (and at MB&F) but so were light blues, organic greens, a birch-white and a sand-grey. Of course, the opposite was true, with vibrant purples and searing reds seen at luxury brands; but we found that the calming nature of the subtler colorways influenced the time-reading experience.

Courtesy of Ressence

Ressence Type 8 S

No brand comes close to the unique horological wizardry of Ressence, an independent brand that we’ve loved since it was founded by innovator Benoît Mintiens in 2010. Their 42.9mm Type 8 S—composed of domed sapphire crystal and Grade 5 titanium, and built upon their patented ROCS 8 (Ressence Orbital Convex System) mechanism—comes in a gently metallic sage green color that lends dimension to the sandwich architecture of the dial.

Courtesy of Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date

Though it is utterly impossible to pick one favorite timepiece from Watches and Wonders each year, Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date would likely be at the top of this year’s list. Nestled within a 42.5mm platinum case, the distinct face pairs a semi-circle of numeric dates and a curve of spelled-out days in blue, with a soft salmon-colored dial. Both the day and date functions are retrograde (meaning that they flick back to the start after they’ve completed the week or month). Inside, Vacheron Constantin’s caliber 2460 R31R7/3 automatic movement lends precise power.

Courtesy of Panerai

Panerai Radiomir California PAM01349

It’s not only the nuanced matte green dial (which softens toward the center) of the Panerai Radiomir California PAM01349 that warrants attention but every other corresponding detail that makes the wristwatch feel unfixed from the present day. There is the amalgam of Roman and Arabic numerals, intercut with bar indexes. And, of course, there’s the antique look of the 45mm Brunito eSteel case, thanks to a never-before-used scuffing method. For power, the PAM0139 looks to Panerai’s hand-wound P.5000 calibre mechanical movement.

Courtesy of Speake-Marin

Speake-Marin Ripples Blue Jeans

From independent watch innovator Speake-Marin, the new Ripples Blue Jeans timepiece features a slender 40.3mm iteration of their “La City” stainless steel case. It’s an appropriate name as the sky-blue of the dial appears to ripple across the watch face thanks to meticulous surface finishing. Limited to 60 pieces, the wristwatch draws power from an in-house Calibre SMA03-T automatic movement with a fully integrated micro-rotor that’s visible on the exposed caseback.

Courtesy of Laurent Ferrier

Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit

A soothing antique pink composes the dial of the Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit, a brand new technical masterpiece from beloved independent watch manufacture Laurent Ferrier. In person at Watches and Wonder, the color was unlike any other under the salmon banner. This attention to the specificity of the hue is an indicator of the wonder beneath: the double-balance-spring tourbillon carriage of the manual-winding LF619.01 calibre. One of the most technically challenging complications (a term that means any attribute beyond traditional time-telling), a tourbillon is often visible on a watch face through skeletonization. Laurent Ferrier, however, chose to keep the dial intact and only expose the tourbillon privately—through a sapphire crystal caseback.

Courtesy of Parmigiani Fleurier

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante

With the brand-new Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante, masterful Swiss watch manufacture Parmigiani Fleurier once again affirms their ability to produce something that transfixes with technical innovation and aesthetic presentation. Most evident and enveloping is the sand-grey dial, accented by a Grain d’Orge guilloché pattern, which has been crafted by hand. A 40mm platinum case complements this, as do hand-applied 18K gold rhodium-plated appliqués (which means indicator). Within, there’s a spellbinding PF052 automatic manufacture movement with a rose gold micro-rotor (visible through the sapphire crystal caseback). As with all things Parmigiani Fleurier, there’s a discreet and unexpected complication: a minute rattrapante function that allows a third hand to jump by five- or one-minute increments. This is to assist during a dive (as the wristwatch is water-resistant down to 60 meters), when working out or cooking.

Courtesy of Grand Seiko

Grand Seiko Masterpiece Collection Hand-Engraved Manual-Winding Spring Drive Limited Edition: SBGZ009

There’s something almost spiritual about Grand Seiko’s SBGZ009, a limited edition Spring Drive wristwatch from the Japanese luxury brand’s Masterpiece Collection. It comes as no surprise that the hand-engraved grooves of the 38.5mm platinum case, along with the organic pattern of the dial, reference a white birch forest during the peak of winter. This is no simple white watch; it’s a tranquil reflection of the passage of time and moments slip away while appreciating its splendor. For power, the watch relies upon a Caliber 9R02 manual movement by Grand Seiko’s Micro Artist Studio.

Courtesy of Rolex

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona

If Rolex garnered the majority of headlines from Watches and Wonders 2023, the attention was more than warranted. Some of their novelties (the industry term to mean new watch releases) impressed aficionados while others appealed to fledgling fans. The ice-blue dial and chestnut brown Cerachrom bezel of one Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona certainly made a statement—and it’s one of graceful exuberance. The 40mm case has been crafted from 950 platinum; within beats Rolex’s new calibre 4131 automatic chronograph movement (visible through a sapphire crystal caseback, a first for the Oyster Perpetual collection).

Hero image courtesy of Ressence